Health education in Buenaventura and Corinto: for the care of water, environment and life


The limited access to drinking water in rural Colombia and the health problems arising from this situation were the main reasons for designing a health education strategy within the framework of the ASIR-SABA project. The strategy was implemented in conjunction with the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) and the aim was to improve the quality of life in the rural communities of Buenaventura and Corinto.

A health education strategy is a process aimed at promoting healthy lifestyles in relation to water and basic sanitation. Within the framework of the project, the strategy was adapted to the needs of the rural communities of Nueva Esperanza in Buenaventura and Corregimiento Media Naranja in Corinto, which are grouped into 375 families in 8 communities, for a total of 1125 participants. To implement this strategy, "the PADF had to talk with the Indigenous Council of Corinto and the Upper and Middle Dagua River Community Council in Buenaventura to get into the territory, given the public order dynamics affecting these municipalities," said Mary Elena Pito of the PADF.

It is important to emphasize that this strategy seeks to influence the behavior, customs and habits of people to ensure the proper use of drinking water in their communities. In addition, it seeks to influence positive actions for the care and preservation of the environment so that communities assume an active role in caring for their health and nature.

According to the UNDP (1990), health education is fundamental for the human development of people in rural territories, because it allows knowledge management and a dignified life through health care. Hence the importance of strengthening communities' capacities in these areas.

The three elements of health education

A health education strategy has three fundamental elements, which aim to work the social levels in an individual, family and community way:

  • 1. Health education, which promotes healthy habits at home, at school and in the various places where communities interact.
  • 2. Environmental education, which is supported by the National Water Culture Programme and the School Environmental Projects (PRAE), strengthening children's environmental awareness;
  • 3. Health education, seeks to protect individual health and quality of life.

To implement this plan, PADF formulated and implemented surveys in the communities, which actively participated and jointly decided on the topics to be addressed. It was from these common dialogues that the methodology for the health education strategy was developed, consistent with the population's educational levels, customs, and beliefs, and then to allow for its implementation from August 2019 until March of this year.


What is the methodology of this educational route?

Some of the activities carried out were workshops, theoretical and practical training sessions, visits and exchange of experiences. The main activities in the framework of the implementation were the recovery of a wetland in Buenaventura, strengthening environmental awareness in the territory with good practices of recycling and reuse, proper hand washing and the possibility of reforesting targeted areas.

To carry out this community work, "the collaboration of community managers was fundamental, since thanks to them it was possible to dialogue with the communities and enter the territory with the appropriate security protocol," said Mary Elena Pito of PADF.

As a result of these actions in conjunction with the communities of Buenaventura and Corinto, some of the participating families understand the importance of proper hand washing, care of the basins, the measured use of the finite resource: water, and the importance of the environment for life.