Comedians spread the word about health

Comedians spread the word about health

1 Thach Ly Khann

An innovative program by the Reproductive and Child Health Alliance (RACHA) is using comedians to help spread the word about health in rural communities around Siem Reap.

Originally conceived in 2002, the Comedy for Health program regularly stages productions in four provinces including Siem Reap, using comedy to address sensitive health issues such as family planning and HIV prevention, and making medical information more accessible.

“The idea behind using Comedy for Health is that we want to change the methodology of providing health education to villagers”, says RACHA provincial coordinator Thach Ly Khann. “You can conduct health education by showing pictures, posters, through mass media, through group discussion. But this method really changes the environment of health education. People can enjoy themselves and at the same time they receive health messages.”

The performers are not professional actors or comedians – they’re local talents found within the community. RACHA provides the scenery and scripts for the typically two-hour shows which have proved highly popular, attracting average audiences of 400 people.

“In the past we have disseminated health messages about TB, malaria, dengue fever, antenatal care and controlling diarrhoea,” says Thach. “And we talk about referral systems. At the end we conduct a question and answer session.

“If we are talking about TB, for example, we’ll ask, what is TB?” says Thach. “We talk about how people can infect each other, and the signs of TB. Where people can get diagnosis and treatment, how long the treatment takes. This is a health message that goes straight to the point. Another example is controlling diarrhoea, and how to prevent it.”

The content of the comedic plays varies according to the type of health message being discussed, as well as the season.

“In  June or July it is dengue fever season, so we need to include a scene that relates to dengue fever,” Thach says. “And in the past, during the outbreak of baby influenza, we had to discuss more about this. So it depends on the season and the situation.”

The performances take place in the evening, and usually begin with music and traditional dancing, often attracting many local children.  Once the music is over, the team members introduce themselves and explain what they do before the “real” show begins. In remote communities where access to media and entertainment is scarce, it is little wonder the shows have proved such a success. Last year, in Siem Reap province alone, 141 shows were performed at 282 villages linked to 29 health centres, with an estimated 100, 330 people participating.

As well as spreading vital health information, the performances deal with a common Cambodian belief in spirits. The shows encourage parents and families to seek medical help from health professionals rather than use traditional healing methods.

Recent surveys showed that 90 per cent of the local population  now go to a health centre, as opposed to visiting a traditional healer or praying to spirits.

MOST VIEWED

  • US to ramp up sanctions after ‘flawed’ national polls

    At a press conference on Wednesday, the US State Department announced that it would expand visa sanctions on the Cambodian officials and individuals it deems responsible for “undermining democracy” in Cambodia. At the briefing, spokesperson Heather Nauert reiterated that the department regarded the July 29 elections

  • US names new ambassador to Cambodia

    US President Donald Trump on Friday appointed W Patrick Murphy as the new US Ambassador to Cambodia, replacing incumbent William A Heidt. A press release posted on the White House’s website said nominee W Patrick Murphy is currently acting principal deputy assistant secretary at

  • Kingdom is at a crossroads between East, West after poll

    It was dubbed a success by caretaker prime minister Hun Sen after the electoral victory of his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), which is poised to take all seats in the National Assembly. But the July 29 national election has not been positively looked at by

  • Final poll results confirm first single-party Assembly

    IN an unprecedented situation in Cambodian politics, the official results of the July 29 national elections have declared that the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) will take all 125 seats in the National Assembly on the back of it receiving 76 per cent of the votes. The National