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Children for Health and Handwashing with Soap

Many people and many children are taught about the importance of hand washing and handwashing with soap (for long enough – 20 seconds). In many schools in numerous developing countries you will hear many renditions of the song,

This is the way we wash our hands!

Wash our hands! Wash our hands!

While the children sing they rub their hands together. 4.0.4

However, when you start to talk to the children about putting this health message into practice you unearth the many complexities to do with their environment, the habits of their families, the cultural norms, the availability of soap and water, the confusion over the effectiveness of hand washing after toilet and before eating etc.

It is a simple message and a complex issue. Children for Health’s methods are about working with children using a participatory process that addresses this complexity. As part of that process, we get the children to research the issue as it is for them in their own lives, we identify what is working (if anything is!) and then WITH THE CHILDREN, we work out a strategy to grow what works or address the barriers to the behaviour change that we want and need. In our experience it is only when we do this that we can start to get close to transforming behaviour. The children can be a powerful part of that transformative process.

Just imagine if you do this right each classroom represents an army of health activists in their family and community! But it doesn’t work simply by telling them to do X or Y. You have to do it in the right way. A useful diagnostic tool we apply to looking at complex health education issues like hand washing is to look at 4 aspects of the intervention:

  1. Does the target group have the KNOWLEDGE?
  2. Does the target groups have the SKILLS to act on the knowledge?
  3. Does that target group have the MOTIVATION to apply the knowledge and skills?
  4. Does the ENVIRONMENT in which the target group lives, enable or hinder the application of the knowledge and skills even when motivated to do so.

When something like the message about hand washing is not working then the reasons can usually be traced back to one of these four aspects or a combination. Find out more about the Children for Health Methods here.