Takalani Sesame:  Mobile app to combat child mortality

Takalani Sesame:  Mobile app to combat child mortality

Mobile app  aimed at addressing the high mortality rate of children under five years has been launched in the Eastern Cape – using puppets and educational play to teach small children basic healthcare that could save their lives.

Preventive health practices

This latest project takes the form of multimedia resources developed by Sesame Workshop – the education arm of the popular children’s programme Takalani Sesame, in partnership with Johnson & Johnson.

A mobile  app named Healthy Play along with Healthy Play booklets was launched in East London this week as part of a strategic campaign to tackle the high numbers of small children who die in South Africa every year.

Currently the mortality rate of children under five years, according to figures released by UNICEF and the SA Office of the Presidency, stands at 93 per 1 000 children. The leading causes of these deaths include respiratory infections, diarrhoea and malnutrition.

The newly released digital and print material concentrates on preventive health practices, addressing a public health crisis in an age-appropriate, engaging way.

Sesame Workshop’s director of educational programmes, Nada Elattor, said the programme acts as a preventative measure.

Using clean water

“We want to teach young children and their carers the basics that could help prevent some serious illnesses,” she said. “You find that very serious illnesses arise from not doing basic things like washing your hands and using clean water.”   Sesame Workshop piloted the programme with a group of NGOs in Buffalo City Municipality, where teachers and carers were given cellphones on which to run the Healthy Play app, and were also put on a six-week training course.

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Set director Michelle Williams from Johnson & Johnson’s East London manufacturing plant said the company fully supported the programme.

Introduction of new puppet

“Our longstanding commitment to families, especially women and children, is what drives our decisions around our community impact work. We strongly believe in the power of health education through traditional and non-traditional or mobile channels as a way of empowering families to stay healthy and safe,” she said.