NALA trains local volunteers that become the key force within the community to move the initiative forward. The volunteers are trained in leadership and health education (focusing on NTDs) and build a set of locally appropriate materials and tools to be used within the community. The volunteers act as trainers and agents with the community, liaising with stakeholders, running educational programs in schools, collaborating with women’s networks, health and education professionals, and with water committees and WASH professionals.
SIMPLE AND TANGIBLE MESSAGES
The program focuses on explaining the diseases, their causes and symptoms, and advocates for preventive measures such as washing hands, avoiding contaminated water and wearing footwear. Messages are conveyed through games, cartoons, songs and role playing, that are created together with the local volunteers.
EMPOWER STUDENT LEADERS TO LEAD THE CHANGE IN SCHOOLS
NALA volunteers approach schools by engaging with student leaders from the health clubs. The training program for the health clubs includes three dimensions:
Awareness - Students in health clubs are trained in health education, along with the rest of the school, and become knowledgeable in NTD eradication. Training is done through interactive activities and games.
Leadership - Volunteers train health club members to become leaders of change both within and beyond the framework of the school.
Application - School Based Application: Health club students initiate a school-wide project to raise awareness, and creatively solve an infrastructural challenge that the school faces. Community Based Application: Students take their knowledge home to their families and facilitate behavioral change within their household. Additionally, they work with the local NALA volunteers to implement projects and initiatives within their communities to facilitate change.
SCHOOL STUDENTS AS CHANGEMAKERS WITHIN THEIR COMMUNITIES
The health education program goes beyond raising awareness for school students. The program sees youth as an engine for change, and relies on them to bring the message to their entire household. Through this model, students are empowered to advocate for change on the individual and communal level, thereby facilitating change in their communities.
COLLABORATE WITH DIVERSE COMMUNITY GROUPS TO ENABLE AND PROMOTE BEHAVIORAL CHANGE
Different groups within a community have vested interest potential to create substantial positive change. It is important to involve different stakeholders in the parasite eradication programming in order to ensure true sustainable change. Religious forums, women's groups and PTA (parent-teacher associations) are a few examples of groups that could be help facilitate change in the community.
Women play a special role in the NALA approach. In every society women hold a crucial role and have the ability to create valuable change in the community. Often, women have enhanced exposure to parasites, as those generally doing the laundry, cooking, cleaning, and fetching the water. Engagement and training of women is a means to empower them within their community and thereby create sustainable change.
HEALTH EDUCATION FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD FOR TRACHOMA PREVENTION
Healthy behavioral habits reduce the risk of morbidity and contribute to improved well-being and resilience. Since human behavior develops during our early childhood, it is extremely important to emphasize healthy behaviors among children in pre-primary education. The goal of early starter projects is to provide health education tools for professionals working with children within educational frameworks, as well as for community leaders committed to making positive changes in their communities. Within this health education program, targeting children below the age of 7, children will learn basic facts about Trachoma, focusing on the methods of infection and preventative behaviors.
Ethiopia has the highest burden of Trachoma globally, with 657 districts endemic for trachoma and nearly 75 million people at risk of infection. The disease is most prevalent in rural communities where there is often a lack of adequate sanitation and clean water. Children (ages 1-9) are especially vulnerable to contracting trachoma and often spread the disease to their caretakers and others. In the advanced stage of the disease at adulthood, following repeated infections at childhood, a person's eyelashes turn inward and scratch the cornea while blinking, which leads to scarring, diminished vision, and eventually blindness.
While understanding that changing simple everyday habits can reduce the risk of illness and protect children from contracting Trachoma, the goal of this program is to influence behavior among young children which will, in turn, influence healthy behaviors at home and within the family. If these changes are implemented they will lead to a significant reduction in the number of people with Trachoma in Ethiopia.