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"Broadcasting" important health and nutrition news in rural Guatemala

Guatemala, July 1, 2011

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Martha Munocito/Mercy Corps  </span>
    A PROCOMIDA staffer for Mercy Corps Guatemala takes place in a mock television broadcast to practice how to better relay important health and nutrition information to families in some of Guatemala's poorest villages. Photo: Martha Munocito/Mercy Corps

Each time I showed up to small and faraway communities where the heat was unbearable, where there was no electricity to turn on a light bulb, where there was no wind to ease the heat in the air — and where the field workers were parking their motorcycles and placing their gear on the dried grass after a heavy day of working in the field — I met energetic personalities ready to connect and do some hands-on work with Mercy Corps Guatemala's PROCOMIDA food and nutrition project.

Part of my job with these hard-working field staffers is gathering in PROCOMIDA's warehouses or small meeting halls in the communities where we work to practice and create key nutritional and health messages. The use of different communication channels is one of the strategies PROCOMIDA uses to achieve behavior change for better health and nutrition with the beneficiaries of the project, who live in some of Guatemala's poorest and most remote villages.

The warehouse space was converted into a makeshift studio to do a simulated television interview or news report. Printing paper was used to build up the studio's walls and motorcycle helmets were transformed into video cameras. Empty cardboard boxes became computers monitors. Cell phones were used to invite the audience to participate by calling in to express their opinions and questions about the interviewees' comments or the news reported about various health issues and topics.

The baseball hats and vests of PROCOMIDA staff were decorated with masking tape that had the names of national television networks or radio stations. The field workers used chalk to write up their key messages. Women prepared to go "on air" and men managed the cameras.

After they rehearsed their acts, we came together to exchange knowledge, strategies and key health and nutritional messages. It might seem like an unconventional way to teach important health messages — and, well, it is — but we know that the community was fully tuned in to what we said that day.