For Nurse Educator Rebecca Munger, service means creating sustainable change. So her favorite moment wasn’t teaching the many students she had, or working with patients – it was watching her students turn around and educate others.
In Tanzania, malaria is the third leading cause of death and annually more than 7.7 million Tanzanians contract the largely-preventable disease. Pregnant women are especially susceptible to malaria, which can contribute to prematurity, low birthweight, and stillbirth. That’s why educating expecting moms the public on preventing malaria and reducing transmission is essential to ensuring a healthy delivery.
In February of 2015, two of Rebecca’s midwifery students, Jackson and Ramer, approached her looking for ways to make their school break more rewarding. Both interested in community education, Rebecca suggested to the pair a project focused on malaria prevention.
Together, Rebecca and her students put together a proposal to host education sessions with pregnant women seeking antenatal care in rural health centers in the Tanzania’s Dodoma region. While Rebecca provided support, Jackson and Ramer truly led the project.
“Our first step was going to the district hospital to meet with the Medical and Nursing Officer who oversee the whole region,” explains Rebecca. “Jackson and Ramer later told me that they wouldn’t have met with them if I hadn’t been there. But once we got them to the table, they took the lead.”
After getting approval from the Medical and Nursing Officers and the local health center leadership, five sites were selected for the project. During each session, the mothers’ baseline knowledge of malaria prevention was assessed. Using interactive methodologies, mothers were trained on methods of transmission, symptoms of malaria, and how to prevent it. They were also asked to share what challenges they faced with the recommended prevention practices and potential solutions. Together, they educated close to more than 100 expectant mothers and clinic staff. Pre- and post-visit assessments demonstrated that participants showed an increase in their knowledge about transmission, prevention, and the risks associated with infection during pregnancy.
“One of my favorite experiences during my year in Tanzania was the education session we held in St. Gemma,” shared Rebecca, “It had been combined with some other community health outreach projects which was hosted at a local church. They started weighing babies for malnutrition and updating their immunizations and while they were doing that the students started talking about malaria prevention. It felt great to think that my students were bringing the message to the women that needed it the most.”