September 2008, Improving Communication on Health
Between September 29th and October 3rd the Republican Health Promotion Centre conducted a training workshop entitled Strategic Communication for Behavioural Development and Social Change in Health.
The workshop, supported by UNICEF, was attended by health promotion professionals from throughout the Republic. The workshop was led by Guy Sandlen, a specialist in communication for behavioural change. The principal purpose of the workshop was to change current practice in Kyrgyzstan, where a tradition of one-way communication from medical specialist to patient impedes effective exchange of information on health and treatment issues.
It is widely acknowledged that Kyrgyzstan’s health sector needs to move away from this top-down model and embrace a more client-oriented and participatory approach to communication. Nutrition, and in particular mother and child nutrition, are areas where more effective communication is likely to lead to rapid improvements in health. Issues that need to be explored include what factors inhibit or promote exclusive breast-feeding, and which food supplements mothers feel most comfortable using, and why. To understand these issues it is regarded as essential to improve communication between mothers and health professionals. Topics to be addressed by the workshop include communication needs assessment, data review, setting goals and objectives, identifying target groups, developing and testing materials and messages, types of communications channels, and monitoring and evaluation.
While in Kyrgyzstan Mr. Scandlen also reviewed a UNICEF-supported nutrition project initiated last year. The project promotes appropriate mother and child nutrition practices, including exclusive breast-feeding in the child’s first six months, proper maternal diets during pregnancy, and suitable supplementary feeding. Operating currently only in Talas oblast, the project will be extended nationwide given support from the Ministry of Health and the World Bank.