Implementing School-Based Behavior Change Communication to Fight Malaria
“I’ve learned a lot about malaria through this youth camp,” said Azeem, a fifth-grade student at Ban Mae Usu Witthaya School in Thailand’s Tak province. The camp was part of the Global Fund for Malaria Thailand project, implemented by Kenan, which is working to eliminate malaria from Thailand. Azeem was one of over 100 young students from four schools in Tak province who participated in the November 24th camp, which focused on using Project-Based Learning activities to increase student awareness about malaria identification and prevention.
While Thailand has made significant progress in preventing malaria in recent years, migration patterns and the development of drug-resistant strains have made the disease endemic to communities along Thailand’s borders with Cambodia and Myanmar. In particular, growing resistance to artemisinin and its partner drugs, as well as resistance to the insecticide used on nets, is threatening the response in much of Southeast Asia.
The Anti-Malaria Youth Camp in Tak was organized to help prevent such new strains from taking hold in at-risk populations. By engaging young students through Project-Based Learning activities, Kenan and malaria experts worked to improve the students’ knowledge, attitude, and practices towards identifying and preventing malaria. Project-Based Learning allows students to learn by doing, rather than just listening, and has been proven as more effective than traditional rote-memorization teaching methods.
This approach is part of the project’s larger effort to use school-based behavior change communication (BCC) to impact entire communities. School-based BCC is a key intervention strategy in the fight against malaria because it focuses on using communication to positively impact the social factors that influence an individual’s health and overall well-being. Moreover, children who learn new behaviors bring those practices home, where they are often more effective in influencing their families’ actions than traditional public health interventions.
Behavior change communication is particularly impactful at the school and community level, where social norms are often directly linked to public health issues. When implemented correctly, communities are able to provide a supportive environment that enables everyone to initiate, sustain, and maintain positive and desirable behavior outcomes. Previous BCC-centered interventions have proven highly effective at increasing knowledge, as well as shifting attitudes and cultural norms.
Since beginning, the Global Fund for Malaria Thailand project has benefitted thousands of people throughout provinces along the Thai-Myanmar and Thai-Cambodian borders and significantly slowed the spread of malaria in Thailand. Funded by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, through a five-year grant to Kenan from Thailand’s Bureau of Vector Borne Disease (BVBD) under the Ministry of Public Health, the project’s school-based BCC training have reached a total of 144 schools in nine provinces across Thailand, directly impacting 4,143 students, as well as their families and communities. Now in its final year, the project aims to reach even more beneficiaries through school-based behavior communication change interventions, with the ultimate goal of fully eliminating malaria from Thailand.