Young people as invaluable 'Change Agents'

The initial focus of The Health Foundation (THF) is on hepatitis B and C. They have two immediate goals. The first is to educate the general public about hepatitis B and hepatitis C, how infection is acquired and transmitted as well as the availability of life saving, safe and effective treatment. The second goal is to provide financial support to those suffering with these infections, but unable to afford the expense of treatment. Due to the fact that there is a vaccine available for protection against hepatitis B, THF is also pursuing an immunisation programme.

By Laila Rizvi

The campaign

It is estimated that Pakistan has one of the world’s largest rates of viral Hepatitis infection, with 2.4% of people living with hepatitis B and 5% with hepatitis C. The majority of people in Pakistan contract the virus due to the lack of awareness and use of requisite preventive methods.

To raise awareness effectively, we created a programme to reach different communities and hold large scale events on international days such as World Hepatitis Day. As part of these efforts we partner with students from various colleges and universities, who act as “Agents of Change” advocating for increased awareness of hepatitis amongst their communities. Students play a vital role as change agents and we are very fortunate to have a group of student ambassadors from renowned institutes like Nixor, IBA, LUMS, Ziauddin University, University of Karachi, and Civil Hospital.

In order to establish these partnerships, we began by contacting various university society and student NGO leaders. Through them we were then able to generate a strong student network database.

We launched the THF internship programme by sending out signup e-forms to our contacts and then scheduled a follow up meeting at our Head Office for all the shortlisted applicants. Students were then divided and given tasks based on their preferences, interest and field backgrounds.

The movement has spread to other universities and colleges through word of mouth and a rigorous social media campaign, as more students want to be a part of this campaign and do something for society.

We have recently also decided to take this one step further by contacting teachers and the heads of departments of various colleges and universities urging them to play their part in facilitating our work by organising various awareness seminars, fundraisers and screening camps in their respective educational institutions.

So far there has been a very positive response from the general public showing their full support for the cause.

Top tips for success

  • Community Ownership is the way forward.
  • Students as Ambassadors of Change.
  • Our Patients Our Priority.

Achievements to date

  • Medical students from Ziauddin University and Civil Hospital hosted continued medical education conferences raising awareness of this silent killer. In addition to this, screening camps were organised all around the city with the help of our student ambassadors. A total of 4,400 individuals were screened and 85% of them were linked to timely and quality care.
  • Students from Nixor, IBA and Szabist also participated in our awareness walks held on World Hepatitis Day to raise awareness of viral hepatitis. This was covered by both digital and print media and shared through all social media pages and WhatsApp groups run by our various student society partners.

Challenges

  • Coordination among students is always a challenge as they are young and need to be guided very carefully. We faced some challenges in coordinating and planning events around semester schedules and test weeks. Events had to be planned keeping these in mind.

Quotes from people involved

Our People Our Responsibility

It was an honour to lead THF’s student ambassadors program and work for such a noble cause. I had noticed a common feeling amongst various colleges and university students  that they all had the desire and urge to do something for the betterment of their community and give back to society, but did not have any such platform or organisation that they could work with. I found this as an opportunity to connect these societies and student NGO’s with THF to form a strong student network and it proved to be quite a success.

Muhammad Musa, Head of THF Student Ambassadors Program

 

Welfare AID held a Hepatitis awareness and screening camp with The Health Foundation in Gulshan-e-Sikanderabad in March 2019. It was a success and served its purpose of not only educating the people about the menace that is Hepatitis but also providing them with a means to screen and seek treatment for themselves. THF team worked with great enthusiasm and had all the required logistics figured out. The camp ran smoothly and we can’t thank THF enough for serving the people of Pakistan the way they do!

We look forward to working with them in the future in the advancement of their very noble cause.

Fatima Habib, President of Welfare Aid 2018-19 (a medical student run welfare set up at Ziauddin University, Karachi) 

 

Find out more

If you’re interested in finding out more about patterning with universities to raise awareness amongst students to empower them to become future change makers, contact laila.rizvi@thehealthfoundation.org.