SPH Workshop Assists Health Communication International Health Officials Team Up Around Computers Cynthia Salter -------------------------- Special to The Gazette Using the computer mouse, Fatma-Zohra Lebdiri moves the tiny arrow on the screen to a box that reads "Show Graph" and clicks the button. A series of bright red bar graphs appears on the screen, and Lebdiri and her two teammates begin reviewing data for Turkey's infant mortality rate. Another click of the mouse button brings up turquoise-blue bar graphs that show how Turkey's rates compare with international benchmarks set by World Bank percentiles. Lebdiri and her teammates are using SCOPE, an interactive computer software program that teaches people how to design, plan, implement and evaluate effective health communication projects. SCOPE leads the user through a multistage approach to information, education, and communication (IEC) planning that takes into account audience, environment, and the health programs and family planning activities in a given region. Housed within the software are country-specific data, both quantitative and qualitative, including such information as geographic characteristics, population statistics and health indicators, including the infant mortality rates Lebdiri's team has just been examining. Lebdiri's team and nine others like it are part of the "Advances in Family Health Communication" workshop offered by the Center for Communication Programs at the School of Public Health. A total of 30 international health program planners and administrators from 15 countries have come to Baltimore for the four-week workshop, which opened last Monday and will run through July 1. The workshop emphasizes "learning by doing," and during the course of the workshop, participants will design an IEC program for Turkey, using data supplied them by the software program. They must keep to a budget, make decisions about strategies and cope with the unexpected. "In experiential learning, the process is more important than the product," said Benjamin V. Lozare, chief of the training division at CCP. "They know there is no single right answer. Mistakes are inevitable and desirable--people learn from their mistakes. In SCOPE it is not a crime to make a mistake; the crime is not to learn from the experience. "SCOPE teaches them that decisions have consequences and involve trade-offs," Lozare continued. "One of its most important values is its ability to promote internal dialogue." Now in its eighth year, the workshop is an opportunity for high-level decision makers and program managers from family planning and health programs around the world to learn how to implement dynamic health communication projects. CCP generally receives about 200 applicants worldwide for the 30 workshop spots. The learning atmosphere is open, lively and friendly. Computer time with SCOPE complements a series of presentations and and interactive lectures by Hopkins trainers, including Lozare and Phyllis Tilson Piotrow, CCP's director, as well as other CCP staff members and faculty from the School of Public Health. This year's workshop included a special presentation by Haryono Suyono, Indonesian minister of state for population, well known among international health providers for his pivotal role in Indonesia's hugely successful national family planning programs. The school dedicated a conference room in his honor during his visit last week. Workshop participants bring rich and varied experience to the program. Lozare said that they learn as much from each other as they do from their Hopkins training guides. Lebdiri, for example, is a communications specialist from Algeria. Her teammates are Julius Ndungu Kaberere, a program officer with the Kenya Association of Youth Organization, and Sonalini Hiro Mirchandani, the resident adviser for CCP programs in India. "Their experience really gets a chance to come out, using SCOPE," Lozare said. "It is a highly participatory program, and the process is very much a dialogue among the three team members. And it is learning by doing." SCOPE itself is a CCP team product, developed in 1992 and is now used in workshops here and overseas. The workshop uses the SCOPE version for Turkey but versions also are available for Bangladesh, Egypt, Ghana, India (Uttar Pradesh), Indonesia (East Java), Nepal, Peru, Russia, and Tanzania. Some versions are in French and Spanish; Russian and Hindi versions are planned. "SCOPE is not an expert system that provides comprehensive and instant answers," Lozare said. "And it is not a substitute for good thinking." Instead, he added, it stimulates thinking and discussion, providing participants with a better appreciation of the IEC strategy development process. "We have used SCOPE with people who have never touched a computer before, and they just jump right into it," Lozare said. As the workshop participants finished one of their first sessions using SCOPE, Lozare asked them what they thought of the computer program and the team approach. "Having a team, working together--it really makes a difference," said Shadreck Jombe, an IEC officer with the Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council. "Many things would have been missed if one person was doing this by himself."
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