In April, the Health Communication Capacity Collaborative (HC3) began using community dialogue sessions to promote health-seeking behaviors, the use of health products and health services in the Tete and Nampula provinces of Mozambique. These dialogues engage community members in active discussions on how best to prevent and manage malaria.
Adapted from the methodology used by the PACTO project to engage men in discussions about gender and HIV, these community dialogue sessions tackle topics such as couple communication, the importance of using bed nets and malaria prevention among pregnant women and children under five.
Before the sessions begin, teams of trained facilitators mobilize the community by making public announcements about the upcoming sessions in churches, mosques, village meetings and women’s groups. Facilitators also work closely with community leaders, who introduce them to and help them gain acceptance with the rest of the community.
Generally, the community dialogue sessions are opened with a brief introduction and explanation of the meeting by a local leader or elder. Thereafter, the community facilitators take over, creating an engaging discussion by asking malaria-related questions using a guide and video stories.
These sessions have proven to be an effective way to reach large numbers of community members.
In the span of three months, from April through June, facilitators in Tete completed 525 community dialogue sessions, involving 175 groups of adults, and reaching a total of 3,517 people (1,221 men and 2,296 women). In Nampula, HC3 facilitators also completed 525 sessions, involving 156 groups of adults, and reaching a total of 3,122 people (1,384 men and 1,738 women).
The benefits of the sessions lie not only with the expansive reach of the dialogues, but also in their generation of referrals to health services. During dialogue sessions, facilitators teach participants how to recognize common symptoms of malaria and related diseases that present similar symptoms. Community facilitators then ask if any of the participants’ family members have shown these symptoms, and refer them for health services as soon as possible. This often prompts community members to share stories of sick relatives at home that are reluctant to seek health services.
In response to these discussions, facilitators challenge participants to take action in order to stimulate other community members to seek health services for malaria diagnosis and treatment. They also encourage the group to inform pregnant women to promptly seek antenatal care to prevent the dangers of malaria. As a result, the community dialogues have generated 266 referrals to health services in Nampula, including 78 pregnant women and 63 children under five. In Tete, 110 individuals were referred to health services, including 15 women and 16 children under five.
Community dialogue sessions will continue in the Tete and Nampula provinces in the coming months. Sessions will also begin in the Zambezia province, where community facilitator trainings have just recently been completed.