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Project: Awareness, Empowerment, and Engagement
Sustainable Well Being Initiative

Introduction

In some communities, inappropriate antenatal and neonatal care increases infant mortality rates. Improper care often stems from ill-informed cultural beliefs and traditions or a lack of knowledge about proper infant care. For example in some communities, people apply ghee (clarified butter) to the umbilical cord, discard colostrum, breastfeed late, skip immunizations, do not wash their hands prior to contact with newborns, and do not maintain proper diets.

To combat these issues, Ekam works in the community to conduct behavioral change workshops. Rural healthcare workers also continue to follow up with communities after workshops to see how they are implementing learnings. Given the current circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, Ekam has also conducted virtual workshops and created educational videos with an emoji cartoon called Lakshmi who provides helpful information about pediatric and maternal health.

Challenge

  • Cultural beliefs and traditions in different communities influence care practices
  • Certain practices, health myths, and superstitions have no scientific basis and can be deleterious to the health of babies, children, and mothers

Solution

Ekam empowers local communities with knowledge and encourages them to take ownership of local health issues. Ekam’s team of social workers work at the district level to:
  • Conduct behavioral interventions for the community, which focus on questioning current belief systems about gender norms, social issues, and individual health prioritization.
  • Give marginalized members of society a platform to raise issues affecting them.
  • Promoting early detection and management of diseases through teaching communities about pediatric and maternal health.
  • Provide manuals, training curriculum, and other awareness-building materials created by technical experts from various healthcare fields.
  • Integrate Panchayat, Block, Taluq, District, and State level governments to form health committees and strengthen the linkages between government hospitals and the community.

Success Stories 

Ekam provided pregnant mothers with anemia with supplementary iron pills during antenatal visits. However, during follow-up visits, rural healthcare nurses found that the women were throwing away the pills instead of taking them. On further inquiry, staff members realized that there was a misconception in the community that the pills affected the babies and caused them to have dark-skinned complexions.

Following these events, Ekam conducted awareness camps to address this issue and educated the women about iron deficiency. Ekam works to identify the root cause of a problem and address it through local volunteers who are a part of the community and are accepted more easily by the patients than outsiders. Ekam uses effective strategies such as role playing, puppetry, theater, etc. to make the rural population understand important concepts and bring change.

By employing its expertise in behavioral change management, Ekam creates a framework to support community monitoring and subsequent reforms. Ekam also uses information collected from community outreach programs to understand the requirements and scope of evolving independent community-led bodies which help lead to community health reforms. Ekam thus helps the Government in reform and make policy changes to help the communities. Ekam gives community members a voice in healthcare decision-making.


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