Keeping children healthy so they can learn.
We are improving the health of children through school-based community health.
An overlooked demographic
A quiet crisis exists among school-aged children throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
Over the past two decades, global health interventions have focused on the health of children under five, almost always ignoring the needs of school-aged children.
Children remain highly exposed to several preventable and treatable illnesses that negatively affect physical, cognitive, and emotional development and contribute to school absenteeism, poor academic performance, and high drop-out rates.
Negative health outcomes undermine the success of future adult populations, as higher educational advancement, improved adult health outcomes, and higher economic attainment are strongly interdependent.
Our work in Zambia is an effort to curb the negative outcomes that set back school-aged children.
Bringing healthcare to students
While many ailments that afflict school-aged children are preventable and curable, many low-income children rarely access available healthcare, and most do not receive quality health education. A recent study found that as much as one-third of Lusaka's low-income school children regularly suffer from preventable and treatable illnesses and 36% show signs of stunting that hinder their development.
Adolescent girls are particularly vulnerable and face additional challenges of gender-based violence, menstrual hygiene management, and rising numbers of adolescent pregnancy. Our integrated school health model targets this vulnerable population with essential, high-impact interventions in a convenient location — the school.
Challenges we aim to solve
Our programs are administered in schools by the teachers who see these kids every day. This model helps build awareness and comfort of medical support with not only students, but educators, parents, and local government. Community buy-in and participation creates a sense of ownership that enables the long-term stability and success of these programs.
Two-thirds of Zambians live on less than $3.00 per day. For these parents, missing a day of work, and therefore a day of income, to take their child to the clinic can result in significant economic hardship. The illness of a child usually forces difficult decisions, and simple denial and delay is often the line of least resistance. Our model relieves some pressure from parents having to choose between economic stability and the health of their child.
TARGETING SCHOOL CHILDREN
Specialized pediatric care at nearly all Zambian government health facilities is reserved for children under five, with older children joining the adult stream at health facilities. This situation can be both intimidating and medically inappropriate. In Zambia, community outreach programs such as vaccination campaigns and deworming often miss school-aged children. Our model bridges this gap and connects children to the care they need.
MOVING TOWARD SCALE
Having spent the past five years developing, evaluating, and refining our model, we are now working with the Zambian Ministries of Health and Education to scale the model throughout the country as a national school health program.