Working Together to Bring About a Healthier Kenya
There is currently a knowledge gap in Kenya in 2 key areas:
1. Health and wellness information
2. Mental health services
Despite noticeable trends of anxiety and depression across Kenya, individuals are often punished and ostracized for their experiences of psychological distress. For example, suicide is illegal in Kenya and I witnessed a young boy being arrested after attempting suicide by drinking pesticides.
The culture, everyday trauma, and impact of abuse in Kenya is frequently manifested in common plights such as mental health problems, rape, and female genital mutilation (FGM). Leading to intergenerational trauma.
Cecilia Jakobsson, HFLK Researcher and CEO.
To continue to develop and help spread an accessible Health and Physical Education curriculum for schools across Kenya that instills positive attitudes towards health and active living.
- Improve knowledge about water, sanitation and basic hygiene, sex education, mental health, female genital mutilation, and HIV/Aids to prevent poor health and illness.
- Improve easy access to quality information about mental health and services in communities in Kenya.
- Advocate for psychologists at a macro level, including support for youth in schools, and through counseling to end the cycle of lack of information and to stop stigma and treat youth mental health by empowering youth through building resilience in youth and their trust in healthcare providers to prevent health-related harm.
WHAT’S COMING 2023
- We are adding to our current set of health education posters ones that will make health information resources both accessible to primary school children and to students of all different levels of language proficiency.
- We are working on a program that will allow students to sign up as volunteers to help teach Health for Life lesson plans at schools of their choice with our teaching aids (e.g., our posters).
Our posters made an impact at the following 4 schools:
- Meru County: Lewa Primary school : Boys 456 Girls 425
- Elgeyo-Marakwet County: Chepsigot Secondary School : Boys 162 Girls 156
- Elgeyo-Marakwet County: Kimwarer Secondary School : Boys 185
- Kakamega County: Mulwanda Secondary School : Boys 440 Girls 468
4 Schools’ total number of students: 2,292 (Ratio: Boys 1,243; Girls 1,049)
Form 4 Students at Mulwanda Secondary reported learning for the first time that:
- Topic Menstruation: “Those in Menstruation should be talked to and guided and not be separated from people. They should be encouraged that it is a natural part of development.”
- Topic Mental Health: “I have learnt about anxiety and addiction. The symptoms of anxiety are stomach ache, general body pain, just but mention a few. Addiction is when one has a feeling to do something to be able to feel satisfied. The Physical addiction is a type of addiction which can involve taking alcohol which can lead to death.”
Form 4 Students at Chepsigot Secondary reported learning for the first time that:
- Topic Malaria: “Malaria can be prevented by use of Mosquito nets, environmental sanitation and indoor residual spraying. The community needs to be educated on how to prevent the disease, identify the symptoms, and seek early treatment, because Malaria is preventable.”
- Topic Nutrition: “Consuming vegetables and fruits, for example, can help you concentrate better in class.”
- We continued to lead awareness campaigns and public health education at schools to prevent misinformation, reinforcement of trauma and perpetuation of abuse from cultural and social practices.
- We reviewed how a comprehensive health course can complement Kenya’s new 2-6-3-3-3 curriculum that replaced the 32-year-old 8-4-4 system in January 2018.
- We designed seminars and added two new poster aimed at addressing one of youth’s most pertinent health concerns – mental health.
- Over 400 print posters drawn from sources including the World Health Organization were distributed to 30 schools, clinics and libraries across Kenya.
- We led health education sessions at the following 12 schools :
- Lewa Primary School
- Karimba Primary School
- Kanyunga Primary School
- Angelina Jolie Girls Primary School – Kakuma Refugee Camp
- Chop Primary School – Fluorspar
- Chepsirre Primary School
- Muskut Primary School – Kerio Valley
- Metkei Girls Secondary School
- Sesia Primary School – Kerio Valley
- Fluorspar Primary School – Fluorspar
- Precious Blood Secondary School – Nairobi
- Fluorspar Nursery
- We reached around 7,500 students with our health education and deworming school visits.
- We fine tuned our approach by talking to teachers and students and asking them which health topics they are curious or concerned about. In response, we researched new topics and created additional lesson plans. We tailored the lessons to answer students questions. If students were shy, we divided the class up into groups to personalize and make lessons less intimidating.
- Topics of most interest to students were hygiene, sanitation, puberty and mental health.
- We talked to girls about female health and hygiene which includes, menstruation, female genital mutilation, pregnancy, abortion, early marriages and female sanitation/complications.
In addition to running our ongoing program we recommended and saw to it that school libraries we were involved with purchased books from publisher Mason Crest that deal with mental health in a suitable way for both young and adult readers.
In addition to running our ongoing program we recommended and saw to it that school libraries we were involved with purchased books publisher Jessica Kingsley that helps a wide range of reachers, including students and teachers, understand the complexities of mental health to young readers to teachers. The books, for example, explain to teachers how to handle and care for children who suffer from various mental issues in a classroom setting.
The Health for Life Team was in Lewa – talking to two primary schools and one secondary school about female health (FGM, early pregnancy, abortion, menstruation, unitary tract infection) and to secondary boys about drugs.
The Team has also started a Facebook Page. You can follow it here. We reached 1677 people in two days.
We recommended and saw to it that school libraries we were involved with purchased books from publisher J.Appleseed that explain to young readers the different types of mental health issues that people suffer from and how it impacts their lifestyles. The books contents are simple, yet informative and help young and new readers better understand mental health.
- Met with the County Director of Health, County Health Promotion, County School Health Coordinator. They supported the posters and agreed to help distribute them within the county. Also met with the Deputy Sub county Public Health Officers, Constituent AIDS Coordinator, and School Health Co-Programmer for Keiyo South who showed their support. With their support we put Health Educational posters up win the following 10 schools’ libraries so they are easily accessed as teaching tools:
- Marakwet East County– Sambirir secondary
- Marakwet West County– Kapsowar girls and chebara secondary.
- Keiyo North County – Sing’ore girls and Tambach high school.
- Keiyo South County – Maria Soti
- Keiyo South County- Soy Secondary
- Keiyo South County – Kapkenda Girls
- Keiyo South County – Fluorspar Primary
- Keiyo South County – Chepsire
- Keiyo South County – Muskut Primary
- Keiyo South County – Koimur
- The Health for Life team gave health talks in 2 schools (Fluorspar Primary, Chepsirre) focussing on hygiene, stress/anxiety and menstruation.
- The Health for Life team dewormed students in 4 schools (Fluorspar Primary, Chepsirre, Fluorspar Nursery, Chop). Cleaned septic wounds of 40-50 students and educated them on how to do this at Chepsirre.
- In addition to working in Elgeyo Marakwet county, the Health for Life Team conducted research and taught the Health for Life curriculum in Kakamega and Isiolo counties.
- In Isiolo we worked with the following 9 schools: Mutuny, Kiliman, Kanyunga, Lewa, Rugusu, Munanda, Sanga, Leparua, and Ntalabany.
- We began exploratory talsk with Isiolo medical clinics on how we will work together with them. These clinics are: Ntirimiti, Lewa, Ngare Ndare and Leparua clinics.
- The Health for Life Team taught the Health for Life curriculum to Nairobi Primary School’s 2,000 students.
We carried on with the pilot classes and exploratory consultations with relevant authorities in Elgeyo Marakwet County.
Elgeyo Marakwet County Governor, Alex Tolgos, pledged to allocate funds in the County’s 2015 budget to ensure that the Health for Life Kenya pilot that started in his County, in June 2014 succeeds.
For support in developing the mental health component of a Kenyan Health for Life curriculum, our member, Cecilia Jacobsson, presented the Health for Life Kenya project to Thomas Canale (CAMS Program Advisor) at the Child Study Centre at New York University (NYU), Lagone Medical Centre, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Recruiting NYU students for an international exchange program to assist with Health for Life Kenya’s mission would be beneficial.
Dr. Brenda Makokha, Kakamega County Director of Health contacted the Health for Life Team. Together, in 2015, we will investigate completing a pilot to assess the benefits of a Health for Life curriculum in Kakamega County.
The Health-for-Life team attended the DFID (British Department for International Development) and the M-PESA Foundation (mobile banking) Foundations Meeting which hosted 20 Kenyan and International Foundations. The Foundations included the Rockefeller, Ford, Gates, Equity, Safaricom and Akiba Khaki Foundations. We were provided an opportunity to update ourselves on developments made by the invited charities and to discuss ways for possible collaborations.
The Health for Life Kenya team was very fortunate to be able to present our School Health Education Policy Proposal to Kenya’s Principal Education Secretary, Dr Richard Belio Kipsang. Not only was the proposal well received, but Dr. Kipsang concurred with our team’s opinion that a need for youth health intervention is necessary. Dr. Kipsang commended us for the scope of the proposed Health for Life curriculum and the various innovative methods that will be used to reach the masses. He informed us that the Ministry of Education has a department dedicated to Youth Health education, and noted that by consolidating our efforts we can achieve our common goal of a healthier generation. He signed our proposal and put us in contact with Mrs. Rotich who will be our liaison in the Ministry of Education. Together with Mrs. Rotich, we will coordinate an evaluation of our joint efforts and the next steps for collaborating and forming a working committee, whose aim will be to oversee the successful implementation of a Health for Life curriculum. The final syllabus/curriculum/program will be the responsibility of relevant Kenyan authorities.
We completed our Health for Life Kenya Health Education Policy Proposal.
The Health for Life Kenya team met Elgeyo Marakwet County’s Governor and his health and education officials to discuss health challenges in the county and in Kenya. Our team suggested ways in which a school health education program, modelled on the Ontario Health for Life curriculum, can support and improve health care delivery to youth in Kenya. The Governor welcomed a pilot of the program in his County and pledged County support for it and a commitment to serve the health needs of its over 130,000 students.
June to August 2014
Students from Branksome Hall School Toronto, New York University, Sheffield University UK, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and Kenyatta University faculty teamed up and formed The Health for Life Kenya research and advocacy group concerning health education policy in Kenya. Together, we collated research and conducted trial Health for Life classes in Elgeyo Marakwet County.
Toronto students visited 3 schools in Kenya, taught 21 health education classes, modelled on Ontario’s Health for Life school curriculum course, to 950 students. The students from Toronto discovered that there is a need for school health education for the rest of Kenya.
The Health for Life team created health educational posters and put them up in the libraries of 16 schools with ongoing support from county officials
Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Education,
Dr. Richard Belio Kipsang accepts our youth-driven policy proposal for school health education in Kenya
Sharon Koimett Health for Life Kenya’s Program Manager attends and speaks at the DFID-MPESA Foundation Forum
Governor Tolgos generously confirmed his county will make an allocation in its budget for the Health for Life program.
Health for Life Kenya and Kenya Youth Senate
Kenya Youth Senate team up with Health for Life Kenya
OVERVIEW OF HEALTH FOR LIFE PROGRAM
Elgeyo Marakwet County Government pledges its support