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Children as messengers of health knowledge? Impact of health promotion and water infrastructure in schools on facial cleanliness and trachoma in the community

Background Health promotion is essential to the SAFE strategy for trachoma elimination. Schools are a valuable venue for health promotion. However, there is little literature about the impact of health education and water infrastructure in schools on facial cleanliness and trachoma in the community. Our study aimed to describe the current state of school health promotion in Kongwa, Tanzania, and to examine the transferability of health messages from schools to the community at large. Methodology/Findings A cross-sectional survey was carried out in all 92 villages in Kongwa district, which included 85 primary schools. Data were collected on health messages and water infrastructure in the schools. A random sample of 3084 children aged 0–5 were examined for facial cleanliness in all villages. In 50 villages, a random sample of 50 children aged 1–9 per village were examined for follicular trachoma (TF). Thirty-seven (44.6%) schools had educational materials on face-washing. Fifty (60.2%) schools had a washing station. The presence of a health teacher was correlated with having posters on face washing in classrooms. The presence of face-washing materials was correlated with the availability of washing stations. Neither teachers mentioning face-washing in health curricula nor educational materials in classrooms were associated with clean faces or trachoma in the community. Having a washing station in the school was associated with lower community rates of trachoma. Conclusions Primary school health messages and materials on trachoma were not associated with clean faces or lower rates of trachoma in the community. The target audience for primary school health promotion is likely the students themselves, without immediate rippling effects in the community. A long-term perspective should be considered during the implementation of health promotion in schools. The goal of school health promotion should be training the next generation of parents and community health leaders in combatting trachoma.

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Journal Article
Chen X
Munoz B
Mkocha H
Wolle MA
K. West S
Saulais L
Year of Publication
PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases
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