"Protect Me"

“Protect me”—a project to increase awareness of the importance of mandatory annual vaccinations, launched in 2015 by students from Secondary School No. 75, Villa Pomán, Catamarca, Argentina.

When they learned about the importance of vaccinations from local health workers, the students of School No. 75 determined to do something about the low rate of vaccinations in their town. They first designed a questionnaire to find out more about the health conditions of the 1100 local families. Before interviewing anyone, the students learned effective techniques for approaching people with their questions, including house visits, community festivals and talks at health care centres. At each meeting the students gave out leaflets in order to raise awareness of the importance of vaccination.

The result was not only an increase in the number of children vaccinated but an increasing awareness in the community of health issues, and the right to health.

As to academic lessons: in chemistry, the students analysed the composition of vaccines and their classification; in biology, they studied the immune system and the history of vaccines; in language arts they learned how to write effective communications and to do in-depth research; in IT they encouraged the use of ICT, and in ethical and citizenship training they investigated the respective roles and responsibility of the state and individuals in the implementation of healthy policies and practices.

Teachers involved in the project noted how students also learned and practiced self-organization, project management, working cooperatively in teams and gaining increased confidence in dealing with the different members of the community.They also noted an increase in school attendance.

Finally, the students also made their project sustainable by training primary school students to succeed them as the new agents of information and health promotion. They also disseminated reports of their project widely and invited other educational institutions and their communities to learn about it, offering trainings to teachers assistant teachers from other schools.

This project was one of the winning experiences of the Presidential Prize “Solidary Schools 2016¨ awarded by the National Program of Solidarity Education, Ministry of Education, Presidency of the Argentine Republic.