In my recent trip to Kenya, I saw how educational films can help improve maternal nutrition

Helen Coombe, Head of Evaluation and Research.

Good nutrition is core to the well-being of women and children. It underpins longer-term child development and broader health outcomes both during pregnancy and early infancy. In my recent trip to Kenya, I met with a range of organisations to explore how educational films can help parents learn how to improve nutrition before, during and after pregnancy.

Common nutritional challenges for women in Kenya 

Women in Kenya face many nutritional challenges. Around 25% of women aged 15 to 49 years are affected by anaemia – this rises to 40.3% of pregnant women. Anaemia contributes to 20% of all maternal deaths and to impaired development in children. The effects of poverty and food insecurity restrict women and children’s diets, particularly for those in more remote rural areas. 

Low meal frequency is often made worse by communities not understanding the need for a diverse diet, particularly the nutritional value of vegetables, and preferring to prioritise cereals and meat. 

How films can help improve women’s nutrition in Kenya 

Taking multi micronutrient supplements (MMS) provides one way to improve women’s nutrition during pregnancy. Health workers agreed that educational films could help women and their families understand the importance of taking supplements, which are provided for free from the time of conception by the Kenyan government. Films could also show the significant benefits of enjoying good nutrition and taking supplements before pregnancy. 

In many communities, it is normal for pregnant women to delay seeking antenatal care until their pregnancy becomes more visible. This means that they miss out on taking supplements in very early pregnancy, which is the most effective time to take them. 

As well as providing information around nutrition, the films also need to convey the benefits of seeking regular antenatal care from the start of pregnancy, so that women can access supplements as well as benefiting from the general support provided by health workers. Portraying the supportive involvement of partners/husbands is also important – we know that when men attend antenatal clinic sessions, they can learn how to support and protect their wife/partner during her pregnancy and birth.

Exploring the best technologies and digital channels to reach communities in sub-Saharan Africa

As well as thinking about the film’s content, it is equally important to understand how women and their families can view the films and the best ways to disseminate them widely. Many organisations use WhatsApp to share content either with patients or with community health workers or volunteers. With mobile phone use in sub-Saharan Africa expanding rapidly, it is also good to disseminate films through social media channels or online platforms. 

However, for those communities who lack access to mobile phones or the internet, it is still important that films can be screened using battery-powered projectors or on TV screens in waiting rooms and that audio versions are disseminated via radio messaging to rural areas. 

This blog drew on the following references: