Betty – a nurse in the Malama community in Freetown, Sierra Leone – works tirelessly in a health clinic that sometimes had no electricity or water. Because of Betty’s dedication and hard work, the clinic can provide access to free health care around the clock to the women of her community and their children. With people like Betty and her community in mind, the Health Communication Capacity Collaborative a global project funded by USAID, recently launched a national reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health (RMNCH) campaign called “Get Kol Art Pik Welbodi” – which translates from Krio to “get peace of mind, choose health” – to inspire Sierra Leone’s communities to prioritize health for a more peaceful life.
The Malama facility was one of the first recipients of the campaign’s community engagement activities to improve health facilities. Community members, local leaders and facility staff came together to participate in dialogues and then contributed their time and effort to help make over the clinic. The makeover went beyond the material support provided by HC3, resulting in a major transformation of the Malama facility that gives community members peace of mind because they now have a clean, decent clinic for preventing and treating illnesses.
Get Kol Art Pik Welbodi officially launched November 21, 2016, at the Malama clinic with a lively, spirited celebration that included music, dancing, an appearance by the hosts of the Get Kol Art radio program and opportunities for the audience to share experiences and impressions about choosing health.
Saad El-Din Hussein Hassan, Health Advisor for USAID in Sierra Leone praised the work by the community and during the event, stated, “This is your facility, you have helped make it better, much better.” Hassan noted how the clinic stayed open during the Ebola epidemic, and commended the dedication of the staff. “Under the guidance of sister Betty, this facility was open throughout Ebola, it was open when Ebola was killing thousands of Sierra Leoneans, it was open when 221 health workers died of Ebola, it was opened when the school across the street was closed. So this … this is the leadership that we are looking for, this is the ownership, this is the dedication.”
“We decided to launch Get Kol Art Pik Welbodi in a health facility celebrating the makeover this community so tirelessly achieved to show our commitment to creating stronger links between health facilities and communities,” said Lansana Conteh, Health Education Division Programme Manager at the country’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MOHS).
Other speakers at the launch called on people to make use of their local health facility for routine care and for more urgent healthcare needs.
“When families choose to go to health services at the right time, they will have more peaceful lives with fewer worries, because they will have better health – they get kol art,” said Chime Mukwakwa, Country Director of the HC3 Sierra Leone program.
The Get Kol Art Pik Welbodi campaign focuses on five priority behaviors for a healthy pregnancy, delivery, and newborn and child health. These include:
- Attending at least four antenatal care (ANC) visits
- Delivering a baby at a health facility
- Going to the clinic immediately with any danger signs during pregnancy
- Taking a child under five to a clinic when she/he is sick
- Taking a child to a clinic every month for growth monitoring, vaccinations and other preventative treatments.
Campaign messages are promoted through radio programs and print materials. Developed with Search for Common Ground Sierra Leone, the Get Kol Art radio program is broadcast on 31 national and community radio stations across the country. Campaign radio spots promoting the priority health behaviors are also broadcast several times a week. Get Kol Art Pik Welbodi print materials – such as posters promoting the importance of ANC visits and clinic deliveries – complement the radio broadcasts. Campaign materials are distributed to all government facilities in the country, including Bombali, Port Loko, Tonkolili, and Western Urban and Rural areas – where HC3 implements community engagement activities covering a range of RMNCH topics.
Throughout the launch, many speakers and audience members invoked the common saying: “Health is wealth.” When asked what Get Kol Art Pik Welbodi means to her, Isata Sogbeh, a mother from Malama, said, “When you are not sick, you are strong, you are moving about your business, so you will have peace in your life.”
In his keynote address, Dr. Reverend Thomas T. Samba, Western Area District Medical Officer, expressed his belief that the messages of the Get Kol Art Pik Welbodi campaign will not only improve the health and well-being of individuals and families, but also communities and the nation as a whole.
“Money does not buy kol art but you can achieve peace of mind when you listen and put the advice given by health workers into practice,” Samba said. “If we do so, the community will grow fine, the family will be happy and everyone will be happy … if we all get kol art, I believe that the health of the nation will be good.”