I have never experienced such reception before, and I was thinking to myself that something has changed here.
– Godfrey Masumba
On a recent Saturday morning, Godfrey Masumba was passing by a health facility in rural Zambia when he noticed a poster on the wall announcing a wellness event for men happening that day. Masumba had visited the local clinic in times past but when he went inside that morning, things seemed different.
“I have never experienced such reception before, and I was thinking to myself that something has changed here,” Masumba says. “As I arrived at the entry point, I was welcomed with a smile and escorted to a room where health education was being given and blood pressure, weight and height checks were being done. In all the rooms I passed through, the providers were smiling and welcoming.”
Like most men in Zambia, Masumba says he only goes to the clinic when he is really sick. They avoid it because of what he calls “rude nurses.”
Sponsored by the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs’ Breakthrough ACTION project, Men’s Wellness Days are meant to provide information and access to HIV, malaria, nutrition and fitness services to men ages 20 to 55. In addition, providers participating in wellness days took the Ni Zii pledge, a confidentiality agreement accompanied by a responsibilities pact between providers and clients. Sometimes men fear going to the clinic because they worry that their private health information will be shared beyond its walls.
Masumba learned a lot, especially about nutrition. “I thought having a big body is a sign of good health, but I was proved wrong today after the clinician took my weight, height and body mass index and told me that I was on the heavier side and needed to reduce [my] weight,” Masumba says. “He advised me to include more vegetables and fruits and drink a lot of water.”
His family will need convincing. They believe that meals are only good when there is meat on the table.
Masumba says he will encourage his friends and neighbors, especially young men, to visit the clinic. Most health programs, he says, are geared toward women and children so he applauded Breakthrough ACTION and the Ministry of Health for having an event just for men.