Jordanian Students Learn to “Talk Frankly” About Health

For children in grades six through ten in Jordan, school isn’t just a place to learn the basics in reading, writing and arithmetic. School offers an opportunity to learn about making healthy lifestyle choices and adopting health behaviors, thanks to the “Talking Frankly” initiative.

An initiative of the USAID-funded Jordan Health Communication Partnership (JHCP), “Taking Frankly” seeks to raise awareness about the health issues that arise with puberty. The initiative was developed with students across Jordan. Starting in 2009, the initiative has been implemented in over 40 schools through an exciting public-private partnership between the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHU•CCP) led project, the Ministries of Education and Health and Fine Hygienic Paper Company and Fine Sancella Hygiene Jordan.

The Fine companies promoted the initiative by funding the installation of 18 health rooms in girls’ schools where the girls receive general information about health issues and can acquire to feminine hygiene products; the development and distribution of two booklets (for boys and girls) addressing a range of topics, including changes that come with puberty, nutrition for adolescents, the importance of physical activity and proper hygiene; and the creation of a pamphlet for parents teaching them how to better understand their teenage children.

The “Talking Frankly” initiative included a competition between the schools for the healthiest and cleanest school environments. 46 schools from across Jordan participated in the competition that was run by Fine and assessed the management of health at the schools, the overall hygiene level at the schools and the students’ understanding of health issues. The students performed skits about health subjects, including puberty, hygiene, nutrition, smoking and exercise, and prepared exhibitions on the same range of topics.

An awards ceremony held in July celebrated the efforts of schools across Amman, Zarqa, Irbid, Ajloun and Balqa’a. It was universally acclaimed by the students who lauded the “Talking Frankly” initiative for giving them “this opportunity to understand more about my body and the physical changes I am passing through”, “the chance to respect the way I look and to deal with my body properly”, and “the chance to learn on how and what I should do to keep my personal hygiene.” (Quotes from three female student-participants in the “Talking Frankly” initiative.)

The “Talking Frankly” initiative demonstrates the pivotal role that the private sector can play in promoting healthy behvaiours in communities, especially by bringing resources to bear in settings where they are slim. For Mr. Edson Whitney, Chief of Party of JHCP, this point is critical: “Fine’s support was not only in the form of financing lectures, it also included the installation of health rooms in the schools with medical equipment. In addition to this they initiated the development of an interactive educational website allowing students to revise their learning in a fun and enjoyable way by participating in a competition and allowing contestants with the highest results to win many prizes.”

Indeed, in order to ensure the sustainability of the “Talking Frankly” initiative, broaden its reach and guarantee continued interaction between the public and private sectors, JHCP developed a website where students can continue discussion about health topics and download the informational booklets.

For Fine, the initiative offered an opportunity to positively impact the lives of students across the country. Explained Mr. Bassam Salah, Jordan Country Manager at Fine Hygienic Paper Company: “Raising the awareness of the youth is very crucial to Fine; […] and we look forward to touching the lives of our students through the efforts of our team”.

Learn more about the Jordan Health Communication Partnership (JHCP).

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