Fall 2016 Fellow: Eunice Musubika, HelpAge Tanzania

Ms. Eunice Musubika is currently a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow with HelpAge Tanzania, an organization that supports older people in more than 65 countries to lead full, secure lives and overcome discrimination. Originally from Uganda, she holds a degree in Guidance and Counseling from Kyambogo University in Kampala. In this blog post, Eunice writes about her field research with intergenerational households in Tanzania to combat non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and support overall health promotion.

Stimulating Intergenerational Households in Rural Tanzania through the Community Life Competence Process (CLCP)

by Eunice Musubika

In June 2016, I began work as a mentor and facilitator with HelpAge Tanzania on a project entitled “Extending Healthy Aging through Life Courses: Community-Based Interventions in Rural Tanzania.”

This project took place in the Kibaha district of Tanzania, which I visited in August 2016. The purpose of the visit was to provide technical assistance in the areas of Community Life Competence Process (CLCP) facilitation. CLCP is based upon the core belief that communities can respond to their own issues. They are able to envision, to act, to mobilize resources, to assess progress to adapt, and to share their learning with others.

Alongside a team of partners, I monitored and provided field mentoring support to Family Health Mentors (FHMTs), a group of community members who have been trained to support families in living healthy lifestyles and link them to health care services. I also delivered FHMT training in five communities in order to facilitate the development of a family and community-centered approach to support health promotion. This approach improves actions among all age groups, prevents and delays the onset of non-communicable diseases, and improves the overall health and functionality of older persons.

A SALT visit is the first step of CLCP. The SALT approach (Stimulate Appreciate Link and Transfer) reveals the capacity of the community to build a vision for the future, to assess the community’s situation, act, adapt and learn. It helps in building relationships with communities and promoting community self-reliance by stimulating intergenerational households to appreciate the strengths and abilities of the family members to live healthy lifestyles. We practiced SALT by stimulating families to start vegetable gardens in their compounds for their consumption and easy access. We also encouraged them to complete physical activities and seek health care.

I carried out fifteen SALT home visits to intergenerational households in Kibaha to support the FHMTs. The families I visited were growing vegetables to sell because it is a very lucrative business. Many older persons said that they were able to look after their families by selling vegetables, and that the activity didn’t consume much of their own personal well-being.

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(Visiting a vegetable garden in Mlandizi, Kibaha district, where older persons grow vegetables as an income-generating activity)

One household the facilitators and I visited was in Mwendapole, Tanzania. Asha, a 74-year-old woman, has her granddaughter and daughters who stay nearby and visit her often. Asha’s husband passed away some years ago due to diabetes, and she is sometimes bedridden due to body pains and heart disease. Asha felt a lot of responsibility and stress about taking care of the family. Recently she felt that the stress was increasing her blood pressure, but she has not managed to walk to the pharmacy due to body pains. For the past few years she used to cultivate their garden, which is far away, to ensure the family has access to basic goods, but she can no longer go to the garden because of her back and joint pain. Her daughters give her support once in a while when they come to visit, and she will sometimes stay with her granddaughter Lailati, and other children check on her often. During the visit we practiced SALT in the following ways:

S- We stimulated Asha to walk around her house and also start a vegetable garden; we stimulated the granddaughter to massage her grandmother with oil to reduce the back and joint pain.

A- We appreciated Asha’s efforts to bring up her children. Despite being a widow, she had been able to build a house and pay school fees for her children from selling vegetables and other food stuffs.

L- We learnt of her skills and strengths that helped her manage to look after her family. We linked her to medical care and encouraged her to go the Health Centre, accompanied by the FHMT.

T- We transferred knowledge to the family about healthy lifestyle activities, for example eating vegetables, doing physical exercise and going for medical checkups.

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                        (Aisha moving around with the support of the chair)                        

It is clear that older persons have many strengths and are willing to take actions to improve their health and well-being using their own local resources.  They require less support from the NGOs and others if they are stimulated and empowered to change their attitudes from being recipients of care to taking the lead in providing care to themselves.

Thanks to my Hilton Prize Coalition Fellowship and to HelpAge Tanzania, I was able to use my skills to reach out to the Tanzanian intergenerational community and share knowledge about how the older persons and youth in Uganda, my home country, are managing their health and livelihood through CLCP. I have been practicing CLCP now for four years, and it is truly empowering to see intergenerational households in Tanzania taking action and using their own strengths to improve their health and well-being. 

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