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Projects That Work: 2015 Winners

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The third annual Projects That Work forum took place at the 2015 conference of The Network: Towards Unity for Health (TUFH), which was held September 12-16, 2015, in Gauteng Province, South Africa. The competition showcased projects that had successfully addressed missions related to the 2015 conference theme, Education for Change, for three years or longer. An open worldwide call resulted in 30 submissions from which five projects were selected by an international panel of 13 reviewers. Descriptions of the selected projects follow.


Sustaining Positive Change in MDG 4 and 5 by Building “Village Arogya Banks” in Rural and Tribal India

Vidyadhar Balkrishna Bangal
From 2006 to 2009, an infusion of Swedish development funding enabled Indian and Swedish partner organizations to establish local health services in 235 underserved villages in a rural and tribal area of central India that included 295 female health volunteers, 173 birth attendants, 112 traditional healers, 339 school teachers, and 976 panchayat raj institution members. These members helped at the village level to nurture a novel concept called “Arogya Bank” (Village Health Post), and they became change agents for the villages. The implementation of the project resulted in significant improvement in accessibility of maternal and child health services. For example, maternal morbidity and mortality has been reduced by 70%. After the expiration of international funding, the number of villages reached by the project was reduced to 100 since January 2012. The project has been sustained at that level in part with minimal user fees that cover about 40% of costs and has more recently once again begun to expand the scope of its services.

Presenter: Vidyadhar Balkrishna Bangal, Professor and Head, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Rural Medical College, Pravara Institute of Medical Sciences, Ahmednagar, India

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Service Learning to Develop Students’ Social Responsibility and Improve Women’s Health

Rukhsana Ayub Aslam
Since 2010, over 100 high school and medical students from 15 different institutions supplemented the care provided by public health workers in four service learning projects in four different communities of Pakistan. The initial projects were supported by local NGOs and institutions and concentrated mainly on raising awareness about the causes, effects and prevention strategies of iron deficiency anemia (a common condition among women of reproductive age in Pakistan). By 2014 the project had attracted international partners, Flinders University (Australia) and GHETS (a USA-based NGO) which enabled it to add point-of-care testing and treatment components that have already yielded measurable positive health outcomes.

Presenter: Rukhsana Ayub Aslam, Associate Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Head of Department of Health Professions Education, Al Nafees Medical College & Hospital, Isra University, Islamabad, Pakistan

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“A Arte de Nascer” – The Art of Being Born

Carolina Araújo Damasio Santos
In 2008 this project began with a small group of volunteers in a poor rural community in northeastern Brazil using art therapy to increase the knowledge of pregnant women about gestation, birth, and care of their babies. Positive results included more prenatal visits, increased breastfeeding, and more vaccinations among children from the project. After the methodology was widely publicized it was replicated in other states of Brazil. In 2010, after being selected as a “Young Champions of Maternal Health” winner by Ashoka and the Maternal Task Force, the project was invited to be adapted for the local culture in Mali, West Africa with workshops using songs, poems, stories, crafts, and cinema for Francophone sub-Saharan Africa. It continues to be replicated throughout Brazil. The methodology is offered for free on the project’s website.

Presenter: Carolina Araújo Damasio Santos, Infectious Disease Specialist, Santos Dumont Institute, Macaíba, Brazil

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Diabetes Management in Rural Communities: Student Nurses Make a Difference Using Point‑of-Care Testing

Aminkeng Zawuo Leke
Begun in 2011, this project uses student nurses during community placement to address a major but previously completely neglected health problem in Cameroon by training them to use low cost point-of-care testing devices for diabetes screening and management in rural areas. After a successful pilot in which 334 people were screened and over 70% of clients confirmed marked improvements in their health, the project was adopted as part of the final year nursing curriculum for community placement. There has been better care for diabetics and a significant decline in the incidence of diabetes in the two communities where the project has been implemented. Diabetes care units have been created and patients now pay a moderate sum for their supplies to contribute to the sustainability of the project.

Presenter: Aminkeng Zawuo Leke, Deputy Director, St. Francis School of Health Sciences, Buea, Cameroon

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Improving Health of Women in Garment Industries through Needs Assessment and Peer Health Education


Since 2012, this project has been addressing basic health issues of garment factory workers in India who are predominantly young females between the ages of 21 and 25, most of whom are semi-skilled migrant workers and the sole earning members of their families. Academic, industry, and funding partners have worked together to create and coordinate a successful occupational health education model based on careful assessment of local, contextual needs and priorities and a delivery system based on identifying and developing effective peer educators. The project has been completed in two garment factories and a spinning mill, is ongoing in four factories and seven spinning mills, with many more factories interested in taking it up in the future.

Presenter: Suvetha Kannappan, Associate Professor, Department of Community Medicine, PSG Institute of Medical Sciences and Research, Coimbatore, India

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[last update: October 14, 2016]