21 Mar 2017

Behaviour change communication vital in averting health threats among Rwandans

 Behaviours – in many areas of our lives – are difficult to change over-night; whether one is adapting new behaviours that would help him/her move ahead, or else changing lifestyle to avert habits  that would put his/her health at risk. This is however possible with behaviour change communications techniques geared towards the affected population or group of people especially when applied consistently to facilitate the affected people to transition from old to new better behaviours.
“People need to be consistently exposed to messages that impact their behaviour and supported to put into practise what they know. It is a very involving continuous process and is the only way effective results can be achieved,” said Manasseh Gihana Wandera, Executive Director SFH Rwanda.

According to Manasseh, Behaviour Change is a process of aiding people to move from old harmful habits to new and healthier behaviours. The process is rigorous and may begin with spreading information through relevant messages coupled with the  provision of a range of health products or measures that would facilitate the targeted population adopt the aimed behaviour by the advocate. “However, empowering people particularly in the health sector with relevant messages to tackle issues is only 50 per cent of the job done. We got to go further and make sure that people have the relevant tools to help them act on the messages. If we are talking about HIV/AIDS for instance, at SFH Rwanda, we not only spread messages to our target audiences on how to adapt less risky behaviour to stop the spread of HIV, we also provide them with condoms at very affordable prices,” Wandera added.

Sur’eau and P&G used to purify drinking water to prevent water borne diseases.
Sur'eau and P&G
Sur’eau and P&G used to purify drinking water to prevent water borne diseases.

“We promote use of water purifiers (SUR’EAU and P&G) which clients can purchase at very affordable costs. Behaviours that promote good health are seemingly obvious but people sometimes do not take them seriously so we have to continuously educate them on things as simple as washing hands at critical points such as before preparing food or after using the rest rooms,” Wandera explains.

Nutrition for children below the age of 2 

The first 1,000 days of an infant are very crucial to the proper health of a child. SFH works to educate mothers and mothers-to-be how to have a balanced diet, have proper rest and the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months. For on year now, SFH has been piloting “Kuza Neza” a nutrious product for children below the age of two years. Recently SFH partnered with Africa Improved Foods (AIF) to distribute Nootri Mama and Nootri Toto products which are fortified foods with important vitamins and minerals for the growth of children.

Promoting Mother and Child Health (MCH) 

“Our work in promoting Mother and Child health is centered on ensuring that pregnant mothers attend a minimum of four Ante-natal clinic visits,” Wandera explains. Attending ante-natal clinics is important to ensure the good health of mothers and their unborn children. Only through the visits can their health be ascertained. SFH also spreads messages about how mothers can prevent themselves from malaria and ensure proper nutrition of both the mother and child.