It was 10 am and the hall in the old Sidon souk was already buzzing with activists: doctors, nurses, pharmacists and social workers.
They had come together to share their thoughts, learn, and advocate for the rational use of medicine.
It was the second regional meeting for Anera’s Rational Use of Medicine (RUM) initiative under its Creative Health Campaign. Through RUM, Lebanese, Palestinian and international organizations have joined forces to promote behavioral changes in local communities in order to raise awareness about the proper use of medicine and reduce medicine abuse in the long run. Many of the 27 participating organizations are partners in Anera’s Medical In-Kind Program and, as such, dispense supplies of donated medicines in poor communities across Lebanon.
A cheerful “ice-breaker” exercise kicked off the day’s activities. Through facial expressions and drawings, participants shared their feelings about the reality of medicine use. “What do you think of my drawing?” asked Ghada, a social activist. Her poster showed a human body full of medicine drops instead of water drops.
In small groups, participants discussed sample medical prescriptions and reviewed drafts of educational materials developed for distribution to the community. They also shared what they are doing in their communities to promote rational medicine use.
Maysam, a nurse working with Lebanese rural communities in the South, advocates for education through arts: “We work with elderly people who depend on medications for chronic illnesses. They are often illiterate, so we need to focus on visual education, such as theater and drawings, in order to relay the message.” Firas, a pharmacist working in Ein El Helweh refugee camp, is working with pharmacy owners, doctors, and managers of community health centers to establish procedures for patient and staff education for the use of medicine.
This December 2009 meeting was the second of two regional gatherings held in 2009 in preparation for a national session planned for 2010 in Beirut. The initiative has encouraged a growing awareness among medical and social workers of what needs to be done to combat medicine abuse and promote better health habits.
Funding for Anera’s Creative Health Campaign comes from Anera individual donors and generous organizations such as ACCESS, the Mosaic Foundation, the Virginia Wellington Foundation, Save the Children UK and UNICEF Lebanon.