Belai, Wintana

JHSPH

MSPH

Ethiopia

Ethiopia - Communication for Health

The USAID funded Communication for Health project funded is designed to optimize the power of health communication to save lives and transform the public health system in Ethiopia.  The project will focus on 6 key  technical health areas, including maternal, newborn, child health, reproductive health/family planning, malaria, tuberculosis, nutrition and HIV with a focus on addressing gender inequality and stigma.

Further, the program will involve five key approaches: 

1) Capacity building to elevate the quality and use of SBBCC throughout the public sector health system.
2) Strengthened coordination of SBCC implementers at all levels of the Federal Ministry of Health, civil society and private sector at the regional and community levels. 
3) Strengthened design, production and implementation of high quality, impactful SBCC programs
4) Focus on Assessment and Improved Quality of SBCC programs; and
5) Increased capacity for generation and use of data.
 

The project was awarded in summer 2015 and is currently in Year 1 of implementation. At this juncture of the project, the program team is conducting a variety of program activities, including strategy development, assessments and formative research, which will lay the groundwork for future project activities.    

Global Health PI/Mentor: Lindsey Leslie

I was thrilled at the opportunity to work with the Communication for Health project in Ethiopia, a country I was born and raised in. I went into the practicum hoping to gain more knowledge of my country itself, including an in-depth understanding of the health system, the challenges present in its public health sector, and the role of various stakeholders involved in improving health. I was also very excited to gain knowledge in health communication, a new field I was interested in, but with very little experience. In spite of being born and raised in Ethiopia, I still had a lot to learn about my country, more cities to travel to, more cultures to explore, and more groups of people to interact with. During this practicum, I was glad to have had the opportunities to travel to different cities outside of the capital and experience regional similarities as well as differences pertaining to both culture and health.

Out of the multiple areas I worked on during my practicum, my involvement in the project’s different social mobilization activities was the most interesting as well as challenging part of my experience. It was the most exciting because it afforded me the opportunity to work at the community level for the very first time. It was also the most challenging because it pushed me outside of my comfort zone to interact with members of the community and exposed me to many of the barriers in low income settings. While the social mobilization strategy used in the project was designed to avoid a top-down approach and promote collective action and involvement at the community level, it was still challenging to fully realize those efforts in an existing health system structure and governance. I found myself consistently being challenged of my own personal beliefs about what it takes to overcome the problems I witnessed in the community, especially pertaining to community ownership. With an understanding that a poor pocket does not mean a poor mind, my time at this internship has motivated me to put aside the “expert mentality” and closely explore ways to empower and maximize community efforts towards the changes they desire to see for their problems. It is because of this project that my interest has grown in community ownership, an area I would want to focus on and explore more in my future career.

I encourage other students who are looking for practicum opportunities to not let their lack of experience limit them from exploring their areas of interest. Although health communication was a new area of interest, I came out of the practicum with more knowledge and interest in the field, specifically in the importance and power of social and behavioral change communication as a preventative public health strategy. It allowed me to be a part of a radio drama design team, which was a very unique experience for me at this program that I enjoyed immensely. It has helped me to be involved in different activities under the project, including media material development (radio drama, posters), social mobilization activities, and other collaborative works with the FMoH. It not only gave me an exposure to those various areas, but also an opportunity to realize whether they were of my interest or not.

I am grateful that my time at the practicum was beyond a merely desk experience, and has allowed me to stop, reevaluate, and broaden my beliefs and ideas about community health, health systems, low income societies and the power of communication.

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October 2020

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