In November, SurfAid announced plans to support the Cervical Cancer Screening project of the Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) and our partner Family Planning Australia (FPA). The project aims to reduce deaths and increase uptake of prevention methods and screening for cervical cancer in the Solomon Islands. It is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) which makes it possible for SurfAid to bring our learning and experience from supporting remote communities to adopt healthy behaviour to this exciting project!  The first training SurfAid delivered was a success and there was much to learn.

FPA is the lead organisation in this project and responsible for all clinical input. SurfAid focuses on increasing health-seeking behaviour (cervical cancer screening), through creative media production and training of peer educators. This partnership is also a test to expand SurfAid’s operations to the Solomon Islands. Evaluation and learnings from year 1 (phase 1) will help SurfAid determine whether we will directly establish additional operations in Solomon Islands. A potential phase 2 would expand SurfAid’s activities to broader mother and child health issues based on our community-led health education and outreach model in Indonesia.

Delivery of the first training and development of creative materials was completed in December and a full report can be read below. As SurfAid enters our 20thyear of impact, this new project in the Solomon Islands is another example of what is made possible through your support.

Thank you!

Anne Wuijts

SurfAid | Global Program Director

SIPPA volunteers, health promotion staff, Rocky & Anne

SurfAid shines in Solomon Islands:

Family Planning Australia scheduled their clinical training for late November. In the Solomon Islands, all activity comes to a standstill during the months of December and January. To retain momentum we delivered SurfAid’s community engagement sessions concurrently with the clinical training sessions designed for the programme nurses and midwives led by Kelly Land, the lead nurse educator and trainer in the Solomon’s.

Developing creative media for key messages 

It looked very simple in our proposal to the Australian Government, “SurfAid will focus on increasing health seeking behaviour, specifically cervical cancer screening, through creative media production and training of peer educators.” Yet, development work is never simple and exploring new partnerships requires additional staff. With our field team active in Indonesia, it was time for me to revisit my community development role and establish the initial training and evaluation. I brought along SurfAid’s previous Media Officer, Rocky Marinus to help with the creative media production and we got to work.

In Malaita province we planned to develop media and key talking points for information sharing on cervical cancer and screening. This can support women’s uptake of cervical cancer screening. The materials can be used by health promotion staff, reproductive health staff and volunteers and peer educators in Malaita when they reach out to the communities and target audiences.

Process and Production

    • Training delivered to staff and volunteers from the Provincial Health Promotion dept. and Solomon Islands Planned Parenthood (SIPPA) on identifying the key messages related to cervical cancer screening.
    •  Development of creative media with partners. Focus included creating a filmed drama in Pidgin, educational posters in English and Pidgin, and a song that was turned into a music video.
    • All materials were tested with female representatives from local faith based organisatons and feedback was incorporated in final draft versions.
    • Materials distributed to health promotion team and all trained nurses.

The key messages

During the behavior change training and the analyses of potential barriers for women to get a cervical cancer check, the participants quickly zoomed in on the perceived high costs and the permission of the husbands. During the pre-test we already saw that the male participants thought cervical cancer was caused by “dirty sex”. That stigma combined with the permission needed for checks, made us focus on the role that men play in the health seeking behavior of women. As a result, a specific poster was developed for men (Men can help to STOP cervical cancer), next to the information poster for women. The drama showed a husband during a request of a women to take a cervical cancer check, and then followed him talking to his friends about it. Now also on youtube! https://youtu.be/-OJMhEL1bmk.

 

After the shooting of the drama, one of the male participants approached me to ask if SurfAid could support the making of a song. His idea was to have men advocating in a song about supporting their wives, daughters, aunties, nieces, the women in their lives. And SurfAid is of course always open to ideas of the community! That is how the most successful media came to be… A really catchy song, complete with music video. An instant hit! Check it out on https://youtu.be/9jOfKSL5OGI

     

SIPPA volunteers and Rocky shooting community scenes

 

Opportunities, challenges, risks and mitigation

After years of successfully delivering similar community engagement projects in Indonesia, it is clear that SurfAid can leverage this experience to help others. FPA, workshop participants, hospital management and participants of the clinical training, provincial and national government were extremely pleased with the work-methods and materials produced. We have received multiple requests for training materials on additional topics, from a variety of stakeholders. This enthusiasm and need for support, presents SurfAid with the opportunity to expand to broader mother and child health issues based on our successful community-led health education and outreach model in Indonesia.

Planning

February 

Outreach efforts will begin in Malaita. Together with the Malaita health promotion team and SIPPA volunteers, we will focus on the 10 communities surrounding the area health centres. Preparation for Western training in April.

April  

SurfAid staff assignment will begin with the goal of leading an exploration into the feasibility of establishing the need and viability of a SurfAid led MCH programme.

Challenges:

  • Security. Auki is not safe at night for women.
  • Violence against women is common and women are extremely careful that their behavior does not trigger violence.
  • Government involvement requires inclusionto the Annual Operating Plan and Budget. SurfAid is not yet included and this will require additional time to develop a formal relationship
  • Corruption – “sitting allowances” are a common protocol for participants who attend a workshop. We have to navigate carefully.