World Health Day 2017: Literacy Saving Lives

Apr 6, 2017

April 7th is World Health Day. Health is something that is viewed wildly differently depending on where you’re from, your economic background, and perhaps most importantly, your education. For some people being healthy equates to following the latest fitness trends and eating habits, but there are others don’t get the opportunity to learn about basic health and sanitation, and their health is in a precarious position due to their living standards or country of birth.

Literacy plays a crucial role in people’s health and wellbeing. A doctor can prescribe you medicine, but if you don’t know how to read the instructions, is it safe to take it? Can you read important medical forms and register the birth of your child? Reading and writing aside, if you’re never taught very basic health requirements – such as to wash your hands after using the bathroom, or about how to manage your menstrual cycle hygienically, for example – you can get sick very quickly, and pass germs onto others too.

That’s why at Feed the Minds health is one of our key areas of work. With all the overlaps between literacy, education and health, we know that tackling literacy issues is a great way of making people healthier in the long term. Three of our major projects tackle health issues in rural, isolated communities in Nepal and Pakistan. In particular they focus on maternal and child health, working with marginalised women and girls, to raise awareness and understanding.

In Pakistan, we have used cutting edge technology to link up trained midwives and qualified doctors, helping deliver hundreds of babies safely. You can read our interview with Dr Sada here to learn about how she does this. Our most recent newsletter focuses on the impressive achievements we have made in this area – you can download it here.

Dr Sada examines a patient.
Dr Sada examines a patient.

Meanwhile in Nepal, we have helped teenage girls learn about the adolescent period and their menstrual cycles. We have even taught them how to make re-usable sanitary towels so that they can manage their periods better and avoid missing out on school. For women, we run health literacy classes where they learn more about their needs and requirements and the problems they may face during pregnancy and birth alongside basic literacy skills. We also engage their husbands and the wider community to also raise awareness and encourage more sustainable change in attitude and behaviour towards pregnancy. You can read our special Nepal-focused newsletter here.

Girls display the reusable sanitary towels we helped them make.
Girls display the reusable sanitary towels we helped them make.

These projects have taught us so much about the vital overlaps between education and health. Through community based projects, we have raised awareness and confidence around health. This has saved lives. Rural communities are now becoming safer and healthier, and learning new skills which will be passed on to the next generation and never forgotten. This World Health Day we are thinking of the women we have helped in these areas, and the babies who will grow up to be taught the lessons we have helped embed in their communities.

Another healthy, happy baby.
Another healthy, happy baby.