Inspirational Stories, Students

Kenan Foundation’s Social Inclusion Team Aims to Build a Strong Health System Starting with Strong Community Relationships  

Jul 5,2024

In a city riddled with a diversity of problems, one issue that stands out in urban slums is the unequal access to health services. The stark disparity became especially evident during the COVID-19 pandemic over the past few years.  

Exacerbated by COVID-19, the work environment has become highly competitive, with minimum wage unable to keep up with the rising cost of living. 

People with a lower socio-economic status can find themselves living hand-to-mouth, facing increased stress and pressure, with children in these communities denied access to adequate healthcare. 

Kenan Foundation Asia and MSD Thailand recognize the importance of addressing this issue, and as such are working together to improve access to health services for vulnerable urban populations, particularly girls aged 10-15. This age group faces significant physical and psychological changes alongside complex health and social challenges. Through this project, we aim to equip them with the resilience to handle future situations, using their youthful energy to disseminate valuable health knowledge to the community.  

This project will be integrated into the students’ community studies and free hours, with cooperation from six schools in Bangkok, covering Khlong Toei, Din Daeng, and Makkasan areas.  

Project manager and Kenan team member Prattana Samransuk, shared that the project design started with fieldwork to understand the needs of urban youth. It was found that when it comes to health issues, the target youth group tends to exchange information among themselves or seek answers online rather than consulting adults in the community. Thus, the training design focuses on providing useful information through games and activities suitable for their age to attract them to participate and share accurate information.  

“The current situation of the children, as we found from talking to the community and the children themselves, shows that these kids tend to grow up on their own. When they have problems, they primarily talk to friends or search for solutions themselves. Therefore, the program we designed includes six activities covering the challenges they face as they grow into adults. We also included topics they will encounter at different life stages, mainly self-esteem, respect for others, and being part of society. The activities are game-based and use age-appropriate learning processes because traditional classroom teaching doesn’t engage them,” she explained.  

Although the project focuses on girls, it is open to boys and LGBTQ+ students who are interested in participating. They will be supported with Adolescent Kits containing essential items to help boost confidence when growing up. 

“We tried to provide essential growth items like sanitary pads and asked the kids what they wanted to learn, like makeup classes, to keep the activities engaging. If LGBTQ+ students are interested, we will include content on mental changes and proper hormone use,” she added. 

Each school has its own unique set of problems and needs, requiring the Kenan team to adapt the curriculum to suit each area to ensure that everyone benefits from the knowledge. 

“We talked to teachers from six schools, and each school has different issues. One school wanted to discuss depression, another wanted to address drug abuse and e-cigarettes, and another wanted to focus on bullying. We must work with the schools to ensure the training addresses the specific context of each school and community,” she said.  

While the project primarily focuses on youth, the Bangkok Health Volunteers (BHV) and community adults – essential for creating a positive health impact – are of equal importance. 

The project includes training for community adults on adolescent psychology, to foster understanding and smooth collaboration in the community.  

“Since there is a significant age gap between BHV and the youth, conflicts often arise. We plan to provide training on adolescent psychology for adults, like communication skills with teenagers. The goal is for them to understand each other’s thought processes behind decision-making, and to develop a mutual respect through various activities,” she elaborated.  

The goals for the project extend beyond the immediate impact on the participants. By sharing accurate health knowledge and strengthening communication between youths and adult healthcare workers, the Kenan team hopes to create a sustainable health system in the community.  

Prattana expressed that she hopes participants will gain knowledge and self-pride, sharing what they’ve learned to care for each other in the community. After the project, youths will be encouraged to engage in community health activities, with knowledge and funding support from Kenan. “We want the community to be aware of health issues. Another important aspect is community relationships. By encouraging children to support the community, we hope they see their value in the community. We want everyone in the community to see each other’s worth. Ultimately, we believe good health stems from good community relationships,” she concluded.  

Nobody can predict unexpected events like the pandemic. What we can do is build physical and mental fortitude within our communities, particularly amongst young people who will ultimately be the drivers of future change.  

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