International Medical Corps recently held Healthy Lifestyle camps in Jordan, an integral part of our Healthy Life Campaign for Iraqi refugees living in the country. The Healthy Life Campaign is a pilot behavior change communication project that aims to provide both knowledge and motivation for participants to manage their own health and prevent chronic diseases.
The four-day camp was held in Ajloun, a scenic town 50 kilometers north of Amman, Jordan’s capital. Iraqi families living in Jordan with family members either at high risk of or already suffering from diabetes or hypertension were recruited to participate in the event. Studies have shown that those suffering from chronic diseases such as diabetes or hypertension tend to practice unhealthy lifestyles that may include smoking, lack of exercise, and/or eating high-cholesterol foods – behaviors that often lead to further decline in health status. To help manage and/or prevent these chronic diseases and to address unhealthy behaviors, the recruited families participated in Healthy Lifestyle intervention peer support groups, education sessions and health check-ups during the camp. They were also able to access weekly medical follow-ups at International Medical Corps-supported clinics.
Structured around interactive activities focused on healthy living, the camp began with a group of participants being asked to prepare breakfast for all participants. Meal preparations were done under the supervision of professional chefs who specialize in healthy eating.
“I realized that Iraqis use a lot of oil in their food,” says Khaula, a female participant. “I think 90 percent of the food I normally cook is unhealthy. I am going to start reducing the amount of oil I use in my cooking.”
The healthy cooking instruction was followed by discussions of health topics including proper diet, healthy behaviors, proper management of medication, and smoking. After discussion sessions, the families were trained on how to use basic biometric instruments—weight scales as well as blood pressure and blood glucose meters—donated by International Medical Corps. Trainers then led the families in physical exercise sessions. While accommodating the different health needs of participants, trainers focused on both easy daily exercises that can be done at home and around the neighborhood, as well as group exercises to engage the entire family.
Duaa Al-Junaidi—a health educator from the Jordan Health Aid Society, an International Medical Corps partner in Jordan—believes that the camp is an effective way to impart health knowledge to the public. “In clinics, health education sessions resemble lectures, because of space and time constraints. Through Healthy Lifestyles camp sessions however, families learn through interactive activities.”
International Medical Corps staff from neighboring Syria also attended the camp sessions in order to observe the interactive sessions. According to Omar Al-Daoudi, PHC-Syria’s Program Manager, the Healthy Life Campaign will soon be replicated in Syria as well.