There is a wide variety of health education needs in a group of 81 young women, especially when they encompass a wide range of ages, education, and experiences.
Preparing to do health education, I asked Neema, the social worker and current go to person, what sort of health issues were most pertinent. Hygiene always seems to come up with youth in Tanzania and it is no different here. And related to hygiene is an unfortunate string of UTIs among these girls, requiring frequent visits to the hospital for antibiotics. She also mentioned some girls were using their new toothbrushes for things other than their teeth.
In order to do effective education on these topics, Laura and I needed our words translated, so we were so thankful that Neema and a local volunteer Miriam were able to stand with us as we presented to a room full of attentive girls.
They seemed receptive to the dental hygiene instruction, and we made an important discovery that all the girls thought soda was on the “good” list of food healthy for your teeth. Hopefully they got the message that it is certainly not.
I covered general hygiene and body care practices as well as information on UTIs and how to recognize and prevent them. I think the girls enjoyed seeing my artistic renditions of female and urinary tract anatomy on the white board.
All of this is not super thrilling, and there is little to no glamour in talking about UTIs and wiping front to back. But the power of education is subtle and undeniable. I’d rather have a hand in preventing girls from getting a UTI or a cavity then be the one handing out the meds or pulling the tooth. Though as a nurse – in the states since I’m not licensed here – I often get to do both. I look forward to getting back into clinical practice and MPH education this fall to see how the complexities and opportunities interweave in preventative education and clinical medicine.