Origins of Children for Health

News coming from the Congo, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and many other troubled places in the world steels our determination to advocate the part children and young people have to play in preventing and resolving health and social justice issues that affect them.

30 years ago and as a contribution to The International Year of the Child in 1978, Hugh Hawes and David Morley set up The Child-to-Child initiative. In those early days days the idea was mainly about what individual children could do to make a difference to the health of others, particularly younger ones. They thought of single messages and activities which could save and improve lives. The world loved the Child-to-Child idea and it grew and since then it has developed into an organisation, based at the University of London’s Institute of Education.

In a newsletter from Child to Child (Nov 2008), Hugh and David reminded us about the following 17 crucial health messages. Messages we should all know, pass on, teach to others and ask them to pass on. The first 12 messages can be acted on by families almost anywhere. The last five contain elements which children may not be able to control, e.g. nets, worm medicine, antibiotics at health posts, or parents unwilling to give up harmful practices.

  1. Children who have diarrhoea and lose too much water and salt may die. Rehydration will put back the liquid they lose.
  2. Children learn to talk by hearing others talk to them.Talk to babies as much as possible.
  3. The kitchen or cooking area is the most dangerous part of the house for babies. Smoke from cooking fires harms their lungs. Keep them away from the fire and cooking pots.
  4. Do not put poisons like paraffin in soft drink bottles and keep bottles away from children. Treat burns with cold water immediately.
  5. Cars kill. Teach little children road safety.
  6. Regular and the right kind of brushing saves teeth and gums. Teach smaller children to use brushes or sticks.
  7. Wrapping patients with fever in blankets can kill them. Keep children sick with fever cool (but not cold).
  8. Little children’s faeces are even more full of germs than adult ones. Wash hands after touching them. Teach little children to wash hands.
  9. Befriend and play with children whose families have HIV/AIDS, and visit their families. YOU CANNOT CATCH HIV/AIDS THIS WAY.
  10. Flies spread disease onto food. Keep food covered.
  11. Make sure water is as clean as possible. Keep hands away from it at the water source. Cover the water pots and jugs. Water stored in clear plastic drinks bottles and kept in the sun or strong daylight for six or more hours is safe to drink.
  12. Small children need to be fed often, at least four times a day otherwise they may not get enough food to grow well. Children who are ‘too thin’ are everybody’s concern.
  13. Immunisation against measles, whooping cough and other illnesses has saved many lives. Spread the message to families and help look after other children so that all those who need immunisation can be taken at the right time.
  14. Malaria kills small children: prevent mosquitoes from biting them at night.
  15. Babies and little children who breathe too fast (over 50 breaths a minute) may be in danger. Call for help.
  16. Smoking (by mothers and other family members) can harm babies in the womb and after birth. Spread the message.
  17. Worms weaken children, if you see them tell someone.

These 17 messages and the idea of messages and messaging was the spark that lit the flame that has become Children For Health.

For many years Clare Hanbury had felt that there needed to be an online HUB of child-friendly health materials, messages and guidance on tried and tested methods of working to mobilise children to learn, collect and share basic health knowledge and skills with each other and with their families.

During these years there has been a rapid spread of mobile phone ownership across the developing world and this got Clare got thinking about how we could reach and inspire children with lifesaving knowledge that could help them and that they could share with other children and in their families.

Over a two year consultation period with numerous friends and allies, Children for Health and The 100 started to take shape. The more people Clare consulted the louder the call for her to lead the creation of the HUB that is Children for Health and the key initiative that is The 100. Supporters came forward in many guises and on March 7th 2013, Children for Health was born!