Looking back on World Health Day 2017: Healthcare Information for All Conference
This blog is an adaptation of Didier Demassosso's report on the conference as HIFA Country Representative for Cameroon. The original report can be downloaded here.
As we celebrated this year’s World Health Day in April, many organisations and individuals who are advocates for mental health celebrated this day in different ways, as the theme for this year’s World Health Day was Depression: Let's Talk. To celebrate this day in my part of the world, I organised a conference at the Institut Universitaire des Sciences et des Technologies de Ethique (IUSTE) in Yaoundé, Cameroon.
As a country representative for Healthcare Information for All (HIFA), I worked in collaboration with two organisations: the Research for Development International (R4D International), an NGO focused on health research (evidence-informed health policy making) and knowledge translation in the health sector, as well as Deserve, an NGO which works on youth, women, and young girls’ welfare. The theme of the conference was Mental health, mental illness and depression.
The conference had two objectives
- To increase HIFA membership in Cameroon
- To gradually lay down the foundation of mental health literacy in schools
41 students, two teachers from IUSTE, and two health professionals attended the conference. Of these, 21 participants registered to be part of the HIFA forum, and 16 registered to join CHIFA, HIFA’s child health and rights arm addressing the information and learning needs of those responsible for the care of children in developing countries, including mothers, fathers, and family caregivers as well as health workers.
Sharing information to empower students
Speaking about mental health, mental illness, and depression to the students of IUSTE proved very valuable in evaluating their level of mental health literacy, and provided a way to change their attitudes and behaviours towards mental health and mental illness.
“It was an opportunity for us to express the need for students to seek accurate (mental) healthcare information, in addition to having good mental hygiene to improve their mental health status and psychological wellbeing.” - Didier Demassosso.
Several questions asked by students highlighted that more work needs to be done to promote mental health, and to develop mechanisms and strategies to empower citizens (students) to be responsible for their health through seeking (mental) healthcare information. Most had little idea what depression is, how it is treated and who treats it. Therefore, taking about mental health and mental illness in schools might prove to be a crucial step for mental health promotion and reduction of mental illness in Cameroon for the years to come.
Other campaign activities
Prior to the event, I was highly involved in social media advocacy on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. I also participated online in the UK Africa Forum (@UKAGoals) under the theme: Key developments goals in Africa the UK and beyond 2030. During my participation, I highlighted that there could be no development if mental health and wellbeing are not taken into account in Africa in general and in Cameroon in particular. The hashtags #LetsTalk, #WHD2017, #healthinfo4all and #UKAGoals were used throughout this one-week sensitisation campaign, and I engaged one-to-one with people on Facebook and Email, who each received the WHO campaign materials about depression. This campaign was an opportunity to raise awareness on the need for citizens to be sensitive to mental healthcare information.
The conference ended in a very delighted mood, and the Institute will be happy to receive me for other conferences. My two objectives have been achieved, and I am looking forward to talking more about mental health, mental illness and depression in schools during the year.