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BBC drama aims to educate

The Village Nurse's Charms employs a compelling love story to provide

viewers with useful tips on how to prevent malaria in Cambodia's rural

areas

Photo by:

Photo Supplied

Scenes from the film The Village Nurse’s Charms.

THE BBC World Service Trust released a 30-minute drama last week called The Village Nurse's Charms, which is aimed at educating Cambodians on how to better protect themselves against malaria.

In the short film, Samphors - a beautiful young nurse - returns to her village and finds herself caught in a love triangle between an ice cream salesman-malaria health volunteer and a handsome young actor. In order to compete for the love of Samphors, the smitten health volunteer will need to prove himself worthy. And, surely, his knowledge of malaria prevention will come in handy.

Entertaining education

"[The film] is very entertaining. It's important to create characters that people can relate to. It's not too dry and technical," said Vanessa Johanson, head of the project.

The film is part of a two-year project by the BBC World Service Trust that started in early 2008 and includes TV and radio spots aimed at educating Cambodians about malaria prevention.

Though none of the malaria-specific TV spots have run yet, prior BBC World Service projects designed to raise awareness about HIV and human trafficking have been deemed successful, according to Johanson.

One reason for Johanson's optimism about the project is the incorporation of audience research that has allowed the project to target specific knowledge gaps in malaria prevention.

"Our research has shown that there was a high usage of bed nets but not a high usage of treated bed nets, which are much more effective, and that's just one example," she said.

The film also focuses on teaching Cambodians that pregnant women and young children have low immunity to the disease and about the importance of taking a full course of unexpired medicines while avoiding dangerous cocktails of drugs.

Johanson said she hopes the film's theme song, "The Malaria Song", will prove to be a useful vehicle for education.

[the film] is very entertaining ... it’s not dry and technical.

Spreading the message

The film will be broadcast nationally seven times on TV5 and Bayon TV from March to May next year, just as Cambodia moves towards the wet season when anti-malarial measures are particularly important.
The film will also be distributed heavily in a workshop environment in Pailin, Battambang and Preah Vihear - provinces with high malaria rates - through provincial village health workers from the National Center for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control.

Johanson expects people to learn how to take steps to prevent malaria while at the same time thoroughly enjoying the first-of-its-kind film.

"To my knowledge, there has never been a drama focused on fighting malaria before, so this is a very exciting time," she said.

Malaria is found throughout Cambodia, except in Phnom Penh and Tonle Sap lake region, experts say.

About 262,000 Cambodians are diagnosed with malaria each year, according to 2006 statistics from the World Health Organisation. Pregnant women, small children and men who work in the forests are particularly at risk.

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