Cards for Health | Children as Agents of Change in Yucatán, Mexico

Children for Health is currently involved with an exciting collaboration with Dr Ines Varela-Silva, a Human Biologist at Loughborough University and her project partners in Yucatán, Mexico. These include:

  • Dr Maria Candelaria May Novelo, Headteacher of the Ignacio Allende Primary School, and Chair of the Centre for Human’s Rights: Casa Colibri
  • Dr Hugo Azcorra, researcher at Research centre Silbio Zavala at Universidad Modelo, Merida; and
  • Samantha Sanchez, Nutritionist at the Universidad Vizcaya das Americas, Merida.

The aim of this project focuses on the Maya families in the Yucatan peninsula.  We will create and disseminate four sets of 10 Cards for Health among the children attending the school and will provide resources to enable them to communicate positive health messages and behaviours to their family members and communities. The Primary School Ignacio Allende, has shown a great level of readiness for both health behaviour change in the context of the promotion of Maya culture, and has welcomed the project with wide open arms.

The children, attending the school, will use the cards to learn health messages and action steps as part of their academic classes. Then they will use the cards to help them deliver the messages. The set of cards will focus on four health topics:

  1. Sensory stimulation for infants and young children;
  2. Physical activity;
  3. Nutrition; and
  4. Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).

The content for the Nutrition and WASH topics is adapted from existing messages developed by Children for Health. We understand that Nutrition and WASH issues are of great concern in Mexico, especially among indigenous communities.

The topics, Sensory stimulation for infants and young children, and Physical activity reflect two additional areas of serious concern among the Mexican-Maya communities. These topics were identified by teachers, the Secretariat of Education of Yucatan, the Secretary of Health of Yucatan and by medical doctors.

The health messages and activities are being developed and translated into Spanish and Yucatec-Maya. Mestre Marcelo Jimenez is a Maya Artist and activist. His daughter, Deira Jimenez is a Human Ecologist and a photographer. Together they are partnering with us to design the cards, develop the visuals and ensure cultural appropriateness.

We expect Cards for Health to positively impact the health of families and communities. It will also encourage children to engage more deeply with their parents, teachers and communities and involve them in discussing essential health matters relevant to their sociocultural context.

The success of this project will be championed and monitored throughout the year by the staff of Ignacio Allende Primary School and led on the ground by undergraduate/MSc students from Universidad Modelo and Universidad Viscaya de las Americas.

To measure impact, our collaborators will monitor how often and how well the children use the cards at home and engage in conversation about the health topics with their parents. Parents will be interviewed and asked about how their children’ teachings changed their perceptions, knowledge and behaviours on the topics. Covid19 has meant that some of the methodologies have had to be adapted and the project timetable has had to be adjusted.

The resources developed as part of this project will be added to the suite of materials available from the University of Loughborough’s the Maya Project and the Children for Health’s website. They will be distributed throughout other schools in the Yucatan. There is also potential to use Cards for Health in Peru and other Latin-and South America countries.