Children for Health, End of 2013 Update

It’s been a breathtaking beginning for Children for Health! With all the foundation work that goes in to establishing a new organisation and plus I have been to Pakistan and to Mozambique on Children for Health business to explore the potential and plan programmes.

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In Pakistan, I worked with the The National Rural Support Programme (NRSP) and we have planned   a programme to embed Children for Health content and methods into three of their existing education programmes: community schools, catch up programmes for girls and informal education programmes for children engaged in labour. The NRSP have the programmes already and all we need now is funding for Children for Health to be its ‘technical partner’ to develop materials, do some training and help establish a mobile messaging and monitoring system. This programme has great scope as the NRSP belongs to a network that is reaching 38 million people. They do not want to conduct a pilot scheme, they are ready to go to scale.

In November I conducted a two week field trip where I have been working with the Government of Mozambique to help plan a pilot programme to mobilise primary school aged children to take nutrition related actions into their families and so make a positive impact on the nutritional status of children under 5. This pilot programme will take place in the Province of Tete in a district that has high levels of food production alongside one of the highest rates of childhood stunting in the world. Alongside this programme we are working with a mobile phone company to help record, monitor and encourage families to improve nutritional practices. This pilot will reach 15,000 children and their families and, as it is government-led, there is great potential to scale it once lessons have been documented. The pilot is part of the global ‘Scaling up Nutrition’ movement.

Children for Health has done a small piece of work with Every 1 Mobile, a privately funded company building mobile social networks to build mass communities of 15-35 year olds across countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. They concentrate on delivering high quality content linked to Health, Education, Jobs and Entertainment. In our first survey of young South Africans in one of their mobile communities, we generated 1700 responses in 6 days to questions about the role of young people as care givers. 25% of the respondents wanted health content delivered to them direct on their mobile phones. This really opened our eyes to the potential for using mobile. There are a number of other networks we are associated with and we are tremendously excited about this area of our work.

There are many other developments, not least of these a request from Save the Children, one of the largest child focused charities in the UK, to establish a partnership with Children for Health. In addition we have started a friendship with an academic team at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and established a link with researchers working on preventing trachoma.

It is also important to recognise the disappointments of the year and most of these were tied to exciting leads for funding that came to nothing after many weeks of work. Some of our prospective donors are asking for evidence first. Others were curious to find out more and their interest got our hopes up but in the end they found it hard to fund a young, entrepreneurial organisation, however good its ideas! And because we are so lean, this has put a lot of pressure on me both to run the charity and to some of the technical work alone – a situation that cannot be sustained for long.

One core activity that perhaps has the most potential to make an impact is building up our content on the health topics and other resources on the website and publicising the website to relevant professional networks. This could be a full-time job and such a great activity. I feel its our most unique and exciting offer to the world as people can come to the website, take the ideas for free and use them on their own terms to strengthen hundreds, maybe thousands of other programmes independently but benefiting from our expertise. We are thinking hard how to raise this funding and we thank ARM, a company in Cambridge who has funded most of our core work to date. They are very keen to see other donors joining them in 2014.

Although we have been established for nine months, thinking of the work that myself and others have been able to put in, the charity is only about 4-5 months ‘old’. Despite this, there are already three key ways in which Children for Health is making an impact:

  1. CfH has provided technical expertise to programmes that already exist to make them stronger and help them recognise how incredibly effective children can be in promoting health when involved it the right way.
  2. CfH has provided and publicised free health education resource materials and information on its website which anyone can use.
  3. CfH and designed and distributed free heath education information with existing content providers (like Every1Mobile) in new ways that has reached, engaged and excited children and their families.

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THANK YOU and happy holidays!

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