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School-based health and nutrition programs

Students in Nicaragua tend to their school garden where they grow tomatoes, peppers, corn and bananas.
Students in Nicaragua tend to their school garden where they grow tomatoes, peppers, corn and bananas.

Plan recognizes that the goal of universal education cannot be achieved while the health needs of children are unmet.

School-age children in low-income countries are often disadvantaged by a number of health problems that affect their ability to develop and learn: helminth (parasitic worm) infections, malaria, acute respiratory infections, HIV and AIDS, and chronic and acute malnutrition.

To improve the health and nutrition of all children, above all girls, Plan invests heavily in health programs for school-aged children in the areas of health promotion, school hygiene, child-to-child health, dental services, visual and hearing defects, preventing and treating infectious diseases, de-worming treatment, school meals and school gardens. Millions more are spent on school infrastructure related to improving the health and nutrition of children, such as school wells, latrines, washing stations and kitchens.

 

Success with community involvement in school-based programs

Given our focus on child and community involvement, Plan has increasingly embraced the Focusing Resources on Effective School Health (FRESH) approach in our school-based health programs.

 

FRESH is a framework that supports community involvement in looking after children’s health as well as developing partnerships between communities, community-based organizations and all levels of government. Early partners include the Education Development Center, Education International, the Partnership for Child Development, UNESCO, UNICEF, the World Food Program, WHO and the World Bank.

 

In the case of school feeding programs, Plan supports in-school feeding programs (where children are fed in their particular school) and take-home feeding programs (where families are given food if their children attend school). These two strategies are not mutually exclusive and are often used to complement one another. 

 

In China, from 2005–2007, Plan successfully implemented a pilot children’s medical insurance program for 12,000 families living in six rural villages of Xixiang county of Shaanxi province to ensure rural children’s access to adequate health services.

In Indonesia, Plan trained children in third to fifth grade in 10 schools to become “little doctors” as part of the hygiene promotion in schools. This training empowers children to be the agents of change in their communities.

In Nicaragua, with funding through a grant from Glaxo Smith Kline, Plan implemented a four year Personal Hygiene and Sanitation Education (PHASE) project aimed at reducing diarrhea cases by assisting children support each other in developing sustainable practices in personal hygiene and sanitation. The project directly benefited nearly 20,000 students across 40 schools in 126 rural communities. After the first three years of PHASE, a 42% decrease in the cases of diarrhea among under-five children was documented.

In Zimbabwe, Plan conducted 142 health promotion activities in primary schools in FY08, resulting in the formation of 200 school health clubs. We also worked in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare and the Ministry of Education to support a supplementary feeding project which has reached 178,932 children in schools with one nutritious meal a day.

In Burkina Faso, Plan provided classrooms, water and sanitation facilities, school lunches and take-home rations (the latter only for girls who had at least 90% attendance in the previous month) to 30,000 primary school students in rural communities. As a result of these improvements, children who started at the 50th percentile increased their learning test scores, on average, to the 80th percentile. Most importantly, girls had a 97% attendance rate.