By Melinda Fenn, Community Health Intern

As a young professional with a strong ambition to work for better community health in my country of Madagascar, I was thrilled to begin my internship with Blue Ventures’ community health programme in January this year. I started my internship in Andavadoaka, a remote coastal village in the southwestern Velondriake Locally Managed Marine Area (LMMA), and one of my first responsibilities was training 32 community health workers (CHWs) on how to use smartphones.

Blue Ventures has a history of using smartphones as a tool for fisheries management, and for some time the community health team has been formulating ideas on how to harness the mobile revolution to help with critical health issues. A workshop was planned to enable CHWs from around the LMMA to receive training in the many different ways that smartphones can be used to improve health communications and community awareness.

Smartphones can be used in all kinds of ways: to share media, produce media, and of course for instant communication. The purpose of this workshop was to present the CHWs with smartphones, familiarise them with the basics, and show them the media on each phone that can be used to facilitate discussions on certain health and environmental themes.” – Fenitra Rasoloharimanana, Blue Ventures’ Community Health Coordinator, Andavadoaka

“Thank you for giving us phones because now we can use them to raise awareness in Velondriake so that the communities can better understand our activities.”
– Nomeny, CHW, Andavadoaka

My Malagasy was a little rusty since I hadn’t practiced it much since moving to the U.S. as a teenager, but I was surprised at how well I was able to communicate the basics of smartphones to my group of six CHWs. In addition to all the media benefits, the ability to phone each other, their clients, or Blue Ventures staff will be a huge asset to their work.

These women all have a genuine passion for community health and were eager to learn any new skills that could help them. In less than an hour they were able to use the phones without difficulty and take photos and videos. After a basic skills assessment, they all received their own phones complete with a charger, power bank, and solar panel charging port.

The next part of the workshop, led by Paul and Symphorien from the outreach team, involved discussing each of the videos on the CHW phones, and how best to make use of them.

We showed the CHWs different kinds of films: music clips, drama, comedy, and reportage on health and environmental themes. The use and production of media is something that excites everyone, and these phones can be used to spread vital information, spark new ideas, and allow for community ownership and exchange.” – Paul Antion, Outreach Coordinator, Andavadoaka

Cristina leading the measles training | Photo: Melinda Fenn

Madagascar has been dealing with a measles outbreak since October 2018, so this workshop was also used as an opportunity to reinforce training on measles diagnosis and prevention. Blue Ventures partnered with Cristina, the head midwife in charge of the health clinic in Andavadoaka, to help update the CHWs on the measles situation and strengthen their treatment knowledge.

The workshop was a great success, with the CHWs expressing that they couldn’t wait to start using their new phones to share content with their communities. They were also excited to create new content and potentially be part of an innovative video project with our outreach team. Keep an eye out for new health videos directed by and starring these incredibly talented women!

It wasn’t until this workshop that I fully understood the importance of having CHWs in remote villages. Without these dedicated women, community health services just would not exist in these areas. It was a privilege to have the opportunity to meet and work with them.

Thank you for the telephone, which I can now use to raise awareness among women regarding their health, the services available, and protection of the environment.” – Soanala, CHW, Nosy Ve


Almost 12 years ago Blue Ventures made the decision to diversify its approach and support local health service provision.

Read the full story in “Progress, experience and passion: supporting community health services in Madagascar


Thanks to all those supporting our community health programme, including CEPF, the Ernest Kleinwort Charitable Trust, the Rasmussen Family Foundation, the Rufford Foundation, the Segal Family Foundation, the Vitol Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation.


 

Guest author

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We regularly invite guest authors, including expedition volunteers, independent researchers, medical elective students and former staff to contribute to the Beyond Conservation blog.

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