Community Theater Reaches Thousands of Filipinos with Family Health Messages

Many Filipinos, particularly those who are poor, less educated, and living in rural and remote communities, have limited access to health services and information. USAID’s Health Promotion and Communication Project (HealthPRO), implemented by URC, supported the Philippine Department of Health in presenting community theater plays as a health education channel to reach poor, underserved areas with key family health behavior change messages. The play, titled Ikaw at Ako ay Tayo (You and I Make Us), reached almost 47,000 women, men, and children from April to July 2012. Of them, more than 29,800 participated in health classes that were held immediately after each play and were conducted by local health service providers, volunteers, and population officers.

The play used participatory techniques to engage audience members in lively discussions and to induce behavior change. Using captivating songs, dances, and humor, the play presents the story of a typical Filipino family and intertwines messages on family health, antenatal care, facility-based delivery, breastfeeding, immunization, birth spacing, and family planning. Presented during community assemblies, a typical show had an audience of 75–2000 participants. The follow-on classes were based on health care and behavior themes and reinforced the play’s messages. In teaching the classes, the health workers used educational materials that HealthPRO had developed. The workers also provided referrals for services. Participants took home interactive comics from HealthPRO with the same title as the play and featuring the same main characters. 

Reaching the 47,000 participants involved 126 performances, which were presented in seven provinces. Each presentation cost less than $500. Local governments provided in-kind support in the form of sound equipment, venues, electricity, and chairs. Most participants were part of the Philippine’s conditional cash transfer program, which provides cash grants to poor households meeting certain maternal and child health related conditions.

The play generated buzz and positive responses from community members, health service providers, and local leaders. For example, Talisay City Mayor Eric Saratan committed to replicate the program using city funds. He called the play “a non-traditional way to bring health messages that are easier to understand.” In Zamboanga del Norte participants described the play as “enjoyable,” “meaningful,” and having “lots of lessons.”

A theater group performs the opening number for You and I Make Us during Making Communication Work meeting in Makati, the Philippines, on September 7, 2012.
A theater group performs the opening number for You and I Make Us during Making Communication Work meeting in Makati, the Philippines, on September 7, 2012.
Date 
October 04, 2012
Authors 
Nilo Yacat, Communications Advisor HealthPRO, and Silvia Holschneider, Senior Technical Advisor, URC
Regions/ Countries