Guest blog post by former Health Program Coordinator, Sonia.
Improving health falls upon a spectrum- it is something that is always progressing, but is never complete. So how do you measure the success of a program? How do you know when to hand over a program to the community it rightly belongs to?
In July of this year, GHEI, after 7 years of involvement, GHEI officially handed over its Hand Washing With Soap (HWWS) program to local schools.
At GHEI, we use evidence and data to develop, implement, and evaluate our programs. Launched in 2009, the HWWS program was designed around best practice principles, and focused on the hygiene habit that has the greatest potential benefit: washing hands with soap at the most critical times. While everyone is susceptible to communicable diseases, children have the greatest risk of becoming seriously sick and dying from the effects of diarrhea.
We hoped that targeting schools would allow the practice to spread. Our Annual Knowledge Evaluation Survey indicates that students are aware of the three critical times for handwashing (after using the latrine, before eating, and before preparing food), and Aggie’s surprise visit data shows that schools are willing to take extra steps to ensure the program continues in their schools. Anecdotally, we hear parents, and other community members singing the Handwashing Song, and teachers report a reduction in absenteeism due to illness. That’s a great branching effect of such a simple concept.
In March 2016, we had a meeting with teachers from our 7 participating schools. Each school had a representative, who agreed to support the program at their schools. We discussed what should schools expect, why GHEI was handing HWWS over to schools, and what the next steps would be. In July, those seven teachers signed a contract, that deemed them responsible for the program, as well as the polytank at their school.
Last month, GHEI’s Aggie Obeng distributed a final batch of soap to the 7 participating schools, and it was over. We’re done! Just kidding. Public health is never done.
While we will no longer be conducting surprise visits, monthly meetings with handwashing monitors, or annual knowledge evaluations, we will continue to celebrate Global Handwashing Day on October 15, and encourage schools to ask us for advice when needed.
Does the end of HWWS mean GHEI staff will have lots of free time? Of course not- we are full steam ahead for our Mother Mentors for Child Development Program! If you have 10 dollars, or more, please think about supporting our wonderful staff members as they run the Accra Marathon this month! You can donate here
And don’t forget to wash your hands! Handwashing is important, and is the simplest way of preventing communicable disease!
Read more about Global Handwashing Day in one of GHEI's past blogs here.