Our health programme is designed as an integrated approach to health, nutrition and environment and is geared towards empowering families to take active responsibility for their own wellbeing and to access and make use of health services in a responsible way. Our integrated approach to health emphasises the interconnectedness of individual, family, community and environmental health issues and how they all impact upon and influence each other.
Building local capacity is crucial for the sustainability of interventions and for this reason we focus on skills transfer and the development of local knowledge and expertise. Locally-based Health Champions are trained and mentored to become resources for their community. They work alongside our Programme Coordinator and receive training and regular support, beginning by shadowing the facilitation of health workshops until they are confident to prepare and run their own sessions. Through this process the Health Champions gain valuable knowledge and skills, as well as confidence and an increased sense of self-worth.
Child nutrition and wellbeing
We believe that poverty and associated poor nutrition and health, which are powerful influences on a child’s ability to learn and thrive at school, are at the heart of the challenges facing rural children in South Africa today. Children who do not receive adequate nutrients in their diet or who suffer from malnutrition, hunger, parasitic infections or other diseases simply do not learn as well as their healthy and well-nourished counterparts. Research and programme experience suggests that improved nutrition and health can lead to better learning performance, fewer repeated grades, and reduced drop-out rates.
For these reasons, we established a nutrition programme which is specifically aimed at providing supplementary nutrition and encouraging healthy eating and a balanced diet to promote child wellbeing and healthy physical and cognitive development. We focus on supplementing nutrition with small amounts of highly fortified nutritional food which address the issues of under nutrition and children’s ability to concentrate and thrive at school. The importance of nutrition is emphasised at all levels (with children, teachers, parents and community members) through education on healthy eating, recognising healthy choices, understanding what different types of foods do for the body and the importance of food hygiene. Teachers are also trained to monitor snacks sent in by parents and to reinforce the healthy eating message.
Teachers and Health Champions work together closely to monitor child health and wellbeing, pick up any signs for concern through careful observation using simple tools such as monthly weighing of children, and to follow up with parents and the local clinic. As part of its systemic approach, the Foundation works proactively with government and other health providers to help improve the accessibility, delivery and responsible use of health services in rural areas. This is done by developing strong working relationships with local clinics and supporting their work by providing additional training at the request of clinic staff. The Foundation also plays an intermediary role by facilitating visits from other service providers such as occupational and speech therapists, optometrists and social work professionals.