Utah Valley Global Health Group

A blog about global health for those living in Utah Valley and their friends.

Packards’ Experience with the Measles Initiative

Posted by chads on January 2, 2007

NOTE: This is the final of a series of posts on measles. I have already posted a brief summary of the global measles problem, an introduction to the LDS church and the Measles Initiative, and an evidence-based answer to the question “How effective are mass measles vaccination campaigns?”

There are a handful of people that I have either heard about or met that leave such an impression on me that I am left with no other choice than to evaluate my life and make changes. The Packards fit into that category. They were kind enough to answer I few questions I had about their involvement in the Measles Initiative.

Last summer, Blair and Cindy Packard served a 3-month mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Mozambique working with the Measles Initiative. Prior to that service, they travelled to to southern Africa multiple times to found and organize Care for Life. Blair’s professional background is as a physical therapist, and Cindy worked as a midwife. They currently serve as in a volunteer 3-year capacity as mission presidents in Mozambique. You can learn more about the Packards here, here, and here. Thanks for joining us, President and Sister Packard!

1. Describe your daily activities with the Measles Initiative. Who were your partners?

Let me answer the last part of this question first, which will lead to what we actually did for our 3 months in Mozambique. The partners in the global measles and polio campaign are several, depending the nation in which the work is taking place. Worldwide partners include the American and International Red Cross and Red Crescent organizations, the Center for Disease Control, UNICEF and the World Health Organization. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints got involved about 3 years ago in the African phase of the work with an initial contribution of $3 million and the commitment to mobilize its members in each nation to assist primarily in social mobilization. This support from the Church has been renewed and is ongoing.

In each country a major partner is the local ministries of health or other ministries related to the health and social needs of their people. It was with this national ministry in Mozambique that we worked most closely. In fact, we were members of the national micro-planning committee which met weekly to plan and review every detail of the campaign. In these meetings we shared what the Church could do to assist in the campaign. This included donating prepared television and radio spots and purchasing airtime for these spots, developing posters and flyers for the campaign, developing ID badges for our volunteers and other workers, and contributing volunteer time by our Church members in a variety of ways.

Our work involved “social mobilization” which included getting the message out about the campaign and getting the populace to the immunization stations. Specific activities included the following:

• Contacted Olympic Gold Medalist Maria Matola from Mozambique and obtained her willingness to participate in promoting the campaign. While she was in the US for training we worked with her and the Church Media department to film and record TV and radio spots in Portuguese and English. These spots were later modified on site to meet local needs. We negotiated with local TV and radio stations to air the spots.
• Church Media provided two other radio spots that had been used in other campaigns successfully. These were translated to Portuguese and reproduced for use in Mozambique.
• In cooperation with the Ministry of Health we designed and produced 11,000 large campaign posters for use throughout Mozambique. These poster featured Maria Matola and our 6 year old daughter, Lindy, running together to “win the race against Measles and Polio.” The posters contained dates and other information about the campaign. The posters were distributed by the Ministry of Health and were a very visible part of the campaign.
• We organized a training program for all our Church members that was provided to each congregation. The program had two purposes – to educate our own members about these two diseases and their prevention and two encourage their participation as volunteers in encouraging their neighbors and others to have their children immunized.
• We organized over a thousand volunteer members to participate in various ways in the campaign. This included door knocking with campaign literature, distribution of fliers and posters, develop of small skits or theatre to dispel some of the myths of immunization, and organization of members who volunteered or were hired as workers at the immunization posts throughout Mozambique.

2. Describe your successes and why you think those efforts were successful. Are you aware of any data?

The overall success rate of the campaign in Mozambique was nearly 94% of the target population. The target population were children under 15 and these 9 million plus children represented 45% of the total population of Mozambique. Success goes directly to Dr. Mark Grabowsky’s approach. Dr. Grabowsky is from the Center for Disease Control (and was on loan to the American Red Cross during the campaign). It was he who first conceived of the initiative and a strategy that was based on “partial ownership of complete success instead of compete ownership of partial success.” It was an experienced group of global partners all working together with local ministries of health toward a goal of “complete success.” The logistical challenges in each nation are significant, but each group working together, contributed to the campaign success.

Another success that goes to the heart of the Church’s involvement relates to the approach taken. Initially a request came to the Church from the American Red Cross just for a financial contribution. That invitation was accepted. But it was Church president Gordon B. Hinckley’s foresight to involve members and contribute in ways more than just monetarily that made the biggest difference.

3. What were some of your major challenges?

Perhaps the biggest challenge from our perspective was just the coordination of such an effort. Bureaucracy always plays a part in such a large undertaking and did in many instances in the campaign in Mozambique. But, overall, there was a marvelous degree of cooperation and energy. It was particularly rewarding to observe at many of the immunization sites and ask some of the mothers who were bringing children why they were doing so. It was clear there was both an awareness of the diseases and a strong desire to see their children safe or provided with a better life than parents had. We saw one mother with Polio who used a hand crank scooter to pedal several kilometers and bring her small child to get immunized. We saw children carrying younger siblings on their backs and even young children coming by alone to get their immunizations. (See attached photos)

Initially we thought that getting the information out to more rural areas would be the biggest challenge. Contrary to that, the lowest success rates were in the largest metropolitan area in Maputo. Better organization by more rural units and public indifference in the cities were probably contributing factors to the challenge.

Unfortunately, I was not able to attach some of the accompanying photos. I will figure it out soon!

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