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Creating Sustainable Change toward Healthy Lives in Tanzania

BYU professors and MPH students analyzed the data for a non-profit, IMA World Health, and discovered approaches that are changing lives in Tanzania.

Dr. Benjamin Crookston, a public health professor, often works with nonprofits across the world to determine how well their programs are working. He knows how difficult it can be to make a difference that is meaningful and sustainable, which is why he was excited to see the results of recent work with IMA World Health. He said, “What we’ve seen is that program seems to be a great success.”

IMA World Health, an international non-governmental organization, developed the ASTUTE program to reduce childhood stunting in Tanzania. The idea was to change health behaviors through the use of interpersonal communication (e.g., counseling at clinics) and a mass media campaign with radio spots and tv ads. Dr. Crookston explained that IMA worked with local ministry of health workers and national government partners to help parents, “better understand how to help their children to be healthy, grow, and develop the way that they should.”

Dr. Crookston worked with Dr. Josh West, Dr. Cougar Hall, and approximately 50 MPH students to evaluate how well the ASTUTE program worked. He said, “We found that people in this area improved in areas related to water, hygiene, sanitation, hand washing behaviors, and nutrition. Their diets improved, breastfeeding behaviors improved, kids are a little less sick, and women are getting more help from partners and spouses in the home.”

The results of the nonprofit’s work are encouraging. Because of these positive results, Dr. Crookston explained that “Donors will continue to support IMA and IMA will continue to change lives on the ground,” with the help of the data analysis to show donors the success of the program.

Emphasizing the importance of nonprofits working with locals, Dr. Crookston said, “People in resource poor areas are very capable, they just don’t have the resources. Programs like this can improve resources.” With those improved resources, locals will be able to improve their own health and the health of their families.

Working on the data analysis has been a great research opportunity for the MPH students. Dr. Crookston said, “It’s been really rewarding to see students discover, mature, and grow in their roles.”

The success of the program is inspiring for the students and professors. IMA’s approaches have given them hope that sustainable change, in Tanzania and in other locations, is possible and practical.