For two years, SST animators have conducted anemia camps in the Padavedu region. Anemia is a common problem in the area. The doctor at the SST hospital estimates that in tribal area virtually every adult has an anemia diagnosis and approximately 70% of her patients in the rural area has anemia. Because the region is based on an agrarian economy, patients often do not begin to seek treatment for anemia symptoms until they begin to notice how anemia begins to affect their work in the fields. For this reason, the goal of SST anemia camps is to educate community members about anemia, diagnose individuals with anemia, and provide treatment for people who test below a 10 hemoglobin (Hb) level.
The anemia camps are an opportunity for animators to engage community members and practice social work skills. This intervention is an example of how animators attempt to move community members through Prochaska’s Stages of Change. The Stages of Change begins in precontemplation when a person may need to change their behavior in order to function more effectively in their environment, but they do not have awareness of this need. This is followed by contemplation, when an individual realizes that they may have a problem they could change and they are primed to make a change. The third stage is action and is illustrated by a person taking steps to change behavior. Action is followed by maintenance, when someone makes a habit out of consistently living the change that they have chosen to make. Finally, relapse is the last stage of change. Social workers are trained to acknowledge that a normal part of life is for a person to slide back into old habits even though they consciously take steps to change their behavior to improve their well-being.
The SST anemia camp is an intervention designed to move community members from pre-contemplation to contemplation. Animators meet with SHG members and encourage them to attend anemia camps, because anemia is a chronic condition that weakens the body and hinders people from advancing their economic initiatives. The economic motivation can inspire a change in their lifestyle by igniting a small spark in a community member’s mind. When animators check community members’ Hb levels, an Hb number below 10 signals iron deficiency and animators provide them with two months’ worth of iron tablets and nutrition counseling. Though the Hb standard is set at 10 here, the international Hb standard is 12. (I had my Hb levels read and I got an 11.4!) Animators advise SHG members to consume leafy greens and moringa leaves to increase their iron levels. Moringa is a commonly found tree in the region with essential vitamins and minerals in small quantities. Afterwards, animators follow-up with SHG members’ health during SHG meetings and remind them to come to subsequent camps for further testing. Though non-SHG members attend SST anemia camps, animators have more regular and consistent access to SHG members through SHG meetings and professional development trainings.
Animators have an important role in creating awareness about a prevalent and preventable condition. The anemia camps are an important step towards improving community health. By introducing the reality of anemia and encouraging treatment and preventative care, animators are addressing a pervasive need through teamwork and patience. Recognizing where community members are on Prochaska’s Stages of Change when they introduce anemia interventions allows animators to adjust their expectations of community members and welcome the change that follows their hard work. Even though animators may not necessarily be aware of Prochaska’s model, I have observed that animators respectfully acknowledge the obstacles to changing others’ behaviors and intuit principles of the stages of change.