By Rev. Dr. Betty Kazadi Musau, Danny Katoula, Teresa Suarez & Neelley Hicks
“Pregnant women die unnecessarily while giving birth due to hypertension, and many do not have the information or education to help prevent this before it happens. We are dispelling the myth that women die in pregnancy due to witchcraft,” Rev. Dr. Betty Kazadi Musau
People turn to Dr. Patrick Kilunji, director and physician for the Shungu Clinic, located in Kamina, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Through research, Kilunjii and Musau found that many women die in childbirth due to preeclampsia, in part because they lack access to regular blood pressure screening.
First, the Shungu Clinic assessed what was needed to respond. They only had one blood pressure monitor, so additional ones were needed. A donation through Cross-Link Memphis provided the cuffs, stethoscopes, testing strips, and low-dose aspirin to both identify and respond to women at risk of developing hypertension during pregnancy. Online coaching by members of the World Hypertension Action Group on blood pressure monitoring was key to progress. Twenty-one blood pressure monitors (manual and battery-operated) were donated to Shungu Clinic, and those testing machines are now in use every day at the clinic.
Next, the team identified the best audience for the public awareness campaign were women of childbearing age and those who teach other women. “We are not only thinking of immediate outcomes, but also generational change,” said Robert St. Thomas of Colleagues in Care.
Harper Hill Global produced core content to assist Rev. Dr. Betty Kazadi Musau, who leads the public awareness campaign throughout the North Katanga region, a place with high maternal death rates. The package includes:
- A video animation by Chocolate Moose Media and Artha Animation, providing auditory and visual engagement (available in English, French, Swahili for the North Katanga region and now in Hausa and Portuguese),
- A song (in Swahili) to assist in remembering what to do should symptoms of hypertension appear, and
- Text messages to be distributed locally to a wide net of religious leaders and followers and to radio listeners who respond by text.
Distribution of the content is done through
- Paid media (television & radio) which sends listeners to Shungu Clinic for monitoring, or to their local clinic (reaching 250,000 people)
- An automated text messaging platform (TextIt) for managing responses;
- WhatsApp groups and broadcast lists, and
- In-person meetings where Rev. Dr. Betty Kazadi Musau teaches women using the Virtual Classroom supplied by Harper Hill Global.
- Additionally, the Shungu Clinic’s weekly pregnancy clinic both checks and teaches pregnant women.
They have already witnessed improved health among patients.
This public awareness campaign positions the Shungu Clinic as a first responder for people living in Kamina and as a public health educator for both patients and health workers.
“I am grateful as I participate in the saving ministry of pregnant women in the North Katanga episcopal area and community of Kamina,” Dr. Kilunjii says.
During the church’s provincial prayer, the bishop of North Katanga UMC, Bishop Mande Muyombo Guy invited Dr. Kilunji to test participants’ hypertension knowledge. “We must not take health for granted,” Bishop Mande said.
When the program began at the Shungu Clinic, Dr. Kilunji shared with women who came for prenatal care how high blood pressure can negatively impact them and their babies. Dr. Kilunji created the clinic’s song to educate and sensitize pregnant women about the additional risks of drinking alcohol and carrying heavy things on their heads when pregnant.
Dr. Kilunji and five community health workers also initiated a mobile clinic to test elderly and pregnant women unable to walk. All community health workers are encouraged to create safe practices for pregnant women by referring them to Shungu Clinic for hypertension testing. The neighborhood is amazed to see the medical staff from Shungu Clinic testing women from house to house to care and save lives.
Saving lives is an entire community responsibility, and everyone can contribute to the advancement of good health. Shungu Clinic is often referred to and is well-known for hypertension testing because of the public awareness program on local radio and television.
Read more about the burden of hypertension on families.
This health campaign is reality because of YOUR GIFTS! Thank you! Please consider a monthly gift of $25 to support ongoing expansion to other countries in Africa.
If you would like to use this communications program for your local health program, email Neelley Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org.