Part 2: Leveraging knowledge to fight disease and disability

Illness, injury and disability can devastate a country’s people and resources as ruthlessly as any war.

Aid organizations often appear during a crisis to combat disease outbreaks and — if time and money allow — to teach people in affected communities how to prevent future flare ups. However, fundamental public health principles hold that prevention is far more cost-effective than treatment.

Outreach programs that promote prevention take many forms and fight many foes, but it’s the large-scale government programs that often generate the lion’s share of attention. Massive media campaigns designed to spread health messages as widely as possible are a proven tactic of multinational efforts from various UN-sponsored groups, US aid agencies, and an array of non-governmental organizations.

But how many radio ads promoting condom use can someone listen to before tuning them out? How many signs reminding people to use mosquito nets are too many? As these messages saturate all the readily available audiences, perhaps the greatest gains from program outreach efforts may be found in targeted interventions that identify and serve specific niche populations.


PamojaTogether correspondents documented the efforts of sex workers who are trained to act as peer educators in their city to help encourage condom use and HIV/AIDS testing. Reporters interviewed rural community health workers who use musical skits to spread accessible messages about HIV, malaria, water sanitation, and the importance of staying in school.

Finally, with so much attention paid to major public-health issues such as HIV/AIDS, malnutrition and malaria, the needs of a nation’s disabled community can be easily — and often — overlooked. Foreign aid directed to schools and training programs for the disabled can give them an economic lifeline, and provide a path to self-sufficiency for their students.

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