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By Cecilia Jakobsson
NYU College of Arts and Science
Health for life Kenya is a youth driven project that is advocating the
adoption of a health education course in the Kenyan national school
curriculum. We prepared a policy proposal in this regard, which was
accepted by the Kenyan Ministry of Education in October 2014. We are
currently conducting pilot classes in Kenya and consulting with relevant
authorities. Our work is exploratory and aimed at making
recommendations. The final syllabus, curriculum, and program will be the
responsibility of the relevant Kenyan authorities.
The Health for Life Kenya project is inspired by the Canadian Ontario
Health for Life school curriculum. This curriculum emphasizes the
importance of physical education, nutritional diets, and balanced lifestyles
for mental and physical health.
Problem and Need
The Kenyan curriculum does not include a comprehensive health education
course. Students learn about health related issues and disease in their
biology courses, but the information taught is very limited. Moreover,
since the Kenyan school system is designed in such a way that the final
exams determine whether students pass or fail, many teachers and
students end up skipping sections on health that will not be featured in
marked final school exam. This exacerbates the problem, as students then
miss out on vital information of disease and illnesses to which they are
susceptible. It is imperative that these topics are built into the core
curriculum and become tested subjects on final exams.
At Health for Life Kenya, we believe that health education should be a vital
part of the school curriculum in Kenya. We want to increase preventative
care; Kenyan youth should not have to sacrifice their health on an
incomplete curriculum
The health education curriculum that we are advocating will cover
infectious disease prevention and control, depression and mental health,
risks of traditional medicine and female genital mutilation, hygiene and
sanitation, as well as physical health and nutrition.
Since I am particularly interested in mental health, I am personally focused
on helping the Health for Life Kenya team and relevant Kenyan authorities

that we are working with to develop the mental health component of the
curriculum. I would be so grateful for the support of NYU students and
faculty in doing this. I would especially welcome the following help:
o Input on what mental health curriculum is appropriate to teach at
various ages.
o Input on best practices to address stigmatization and taboo for those
inflicted with mental health issues.
I will be returning to Kenya in early July to continue the work that I started
doing in July 2014. I will continue to conduct research, test teaching
methods, and evaluate subjects at clinics and schools in two different
counties in Kenya: Elgeyo Marakwet County and Isiolo County.
Opportunities that are available to NYUs community
I appreciate any suggestions that the NYU community can provide. For
those who may be interested in joining me on a Health for Life purpose trip
to Kenya this summer 2015, please note that the will involve research,
delivery of basic health care, and teaching. In July 2014, I worked in Elgeyo
Marakwet County, where we are piloting the Health for Life Kenya
education program.
While in Kenya, I worked at a Medical Clinic and visited Kenyan schools.
My routine involved working at a very well equipped and sanitary medical
clinic operated by a Canadian owned mining company. I relied on my
interaction with patients and tasks assigned to me by the resident health
care givers to gather research for the Health for Life program. Clinic work
included accompanying the medical team three times a week on outreach
missions of four hours. In four hours we served 100 patients on average
(traveling by Landrover and sometimes a hike as well to very remote
homesteads in the field).
When I wasnt working at the clinic, I visited, taught, and surveyed
students at several schools in the County. I also met school faculty and
local government officials with whom I discussed the Health for Life
For those interested in coming to Kenya this summer to help us at Health
for Life, please note that we would be based at a lodge in a remote, but
extremely safe, part of Elgeyo Marakwet County. The lodging has constant
security, running water, electricity, modern cottages, fantastic cook, and

I was shocked when I saw that many of the other clinics or dispensaries in
the area were abandoned. This meant that people in the County would have
to wait for up to two weeks for our outreach team to provide them medical
For example, I met a boy who was turned away by a clinician at one of
these dispensaries (Kalwal) and told to wait for the outreach. He had a
deep cut and needed stitches. By the time we reached the boy, the cut had
expanded, become very wide, very badly infected, and scabbed.
On this same outreach day, I saw around 30 school kids. They came in all
together with septic wounds on their legs the size of baseballs. I had never
seen wounds this size, all yellow and black with crusty edges and fresh in
the middle. The clinicians explained that the kids were spreading the
infection to each other by sharing clothes and soaps at school. I learned
from the children that they were unaware that hygiene is an important
health practice. They were also unaware of the very basic hygiene and
sanitation practices, which I was able to teach them.
In June-July 2015, in addition to carrying on with the work I did in 2014 in
Elgeyo Marakwet, I will also be visiting Isiolo County schools and a clinic
operated by Lewa Conservation Trust. My experiences will be similar to the
experience in Elgeyo Marakwet, however, we will drive through a wildlife
game reserve to reach the schools and clinic.
Opportunity for those interested in Infectious Diseases
I took the opportunity to get general exposure to primary health care
challenges in Kenya by offering to assist wherever I was needed at the
clinic. As a result, I had a unique hands-on experience. I actively
participated in every area of the clinic from the male, female, and pediatric
wards to dressing rooms, consultations, labs and pharmacy. I spent time in
the HIV ward as well as the family planning, which educates people on safe
sex as well. There I was allowed to insert a contraceptive implant into a
woman's arm. I was allowed to
Assist with childbirths in the maternity ward. On my second day, I helped
deliver the seventh child of an HIV positive woman. I learned their
methods of prevention, such as using different tools and assigning different
clinicians to mother and child. By allocating a clinician to each, they have
been able to reduce the risk of the mother infecting her baby with a 99%
success rate.

Get involved:
If you are interested in contributing to Health for Life Kenyas mission to
develop a Health and Physical Education curriculum to inculcate life long
positive attitudes towards healthy and active living, please contact
For more information on Health for Life Kenya, please visit our website, read the policy proposal we prepared and
presented to Kenyas Ministry of Education, which we are implementing in
Elgeyo Marawket County and will be introducing in Nairobi and Isiolo
Counties shortly.