by Michael Matheke-Fischer

Reaching poor communities with health education can be difficult. Often, the families have very low literacy, and even less literacy when is comes to health and nutrition. Although there are many resources available to prevent malnutrition in India, one of the largest challenges our team faces is helping people access these services.

Beginning in 2010, RMF started a massive campaign to help educate communities using our Community Nutrition Educators (CNEs) to reach individuals with interpersonal communication and intensive family counseling in their homes. Since 2010, we have provided counseling to over 370,000 individuals across our 600 target villages on topics such as malnutrition, sanitation and hygiene, the components of a nutritious diet using locally available foods, and health services available in the community. We have also developed low literacy tools, such as an illustrated flipbook and mobile phone counseling tool, to help increase the efficacy of our message.

Amit shoots in the field

CNE Neermala helps with scripting

CNEs learn to use digital movie cameras

CNEs learn to use digital movie cameras

CNEs present their script ideas

Film shooting in Kerry village

Gulrez from DG helps train on camera use

Deepmala learns the finer points of a close-up

Learning a story arc

Practicing a pan shot

RMF CNEs using the cameras

Santosh helps lead the filming training


Sudha from Digital Green demonstrates tripod setup

Taking notes during a film shooting

Zooming on the camera touch screen

Starting this month, our CNEs in Khandwa district will have a new tool: movies. RMF has partnered with Digital Green (DG), an Indian based non-profit that specializes in the production, screening, and dissemination of films in the community, to film locally specific movies about malnutrition, its causes and treatment, and how to prevent it. Over the next year, RMF’s team in Khandwa will script, storyboard, shoot, edit, and eventually screen 40 videos. Using a small projector, about the size of an iPhone, each CNE will then take these movies into the communities and screen them with mothers’ groups and individual families in their homes, and the entire community at evening screenings. Each of these videos will be scripted by our CNEs in the local languages of the area, Kurku and Nimari, and filmed with local community members and the CNEs themselves.

Once the movies have been produced and screened, RMF will enter information into DG’s COCO (Connect Online/Connect Offline) server that will help us track the number of videos we have produced, screened, the total audience, and which audience member has adopted practices from our videos. With this technology, we can target our message more effectively, and also adapt the messages which are more difficult for communities to understand. Over the course of the next year, we will carefully monitor what works and what doesn’t, with the goal of scaling this technology to all the districts we work in.

We will also being sharing our content as we produce it. DG’s innovative platforms allow RMF to track individuals in the community, which videos they have viewed, and what practices they have adopted. All of the videos will also be available on YouTube.

Three years ago, our Khandwa team had virtually no experience in any field, much less nutrition and health. Now, in 2013, they have participated vociferously in a pilot study with Microsoft Research, demonstrated the scalability of our mobile phone based data collection platform (which we now use with all 60 of our staff), and now are trained on video production and filming. As is always the case with our field workers in Khandwa, one small spark exploded with creative ideas, and one more innovation is working towards liberating their human potential.

Click on the link if you are interested in learning more about our Malnutrition Initiative,

If you’d like to help us keep our Community Nutrition Educators in the field click here

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