October 25, 2016
Customarily, mothers are taught health lessons which, even if simplified, are paradigmatic and hard to remember. Dr. Laura Altobelli, Professor and Director of Future Generations Peru, is leading research to advance a method that transforms the training of community health workers (CHWs), leading to faster progress in knowledge and behavior change of mothers who learn from older women whom they know and trust. Through systematic recall and sharing memories of personal experiences, this innovative behavior-change method engages and empowers female CHWs to take ownership of their cultural beliefs and practices, and on those build a new collective understanding for future behavior. Community health workers gain self-confidence and can better convince other women to uptake knowledge and behavior that improve health and healthcare use in the key first 1,000 days of life (conception to age two).
Dr. Altobelli’s prior study in Peru provides preliminary evidence of reduction of child stunting when government personnel used this methodology to teach CHWs, who then taught mothers with similar methods. The earlier study showed it to be low-cost, simple-to-learn, and effective. It enhances current best practice of participatory women´s groups and home visits by providing a replicable interactive participatory method grounded in local knowledge. Findings corroborate empirically proven conceptual frameworks on memory and behavior change. Future Generations Peru hopes to continue research on the method to demonstrate effectiveness at scale of this maternal behavior change innovation, with reduction in child stunting and anemia, supported and sustained by primary healthcare services and local government, and incorporated into global policy and programs.