"We didn't have any idea about a healthy lifestyle. Life was just normal; you do what everyone else does. Eat, smoke, don't exercise and not because you don't know it's bad. We just didn't think about it. We lived carelessly…” (Ali, HLS participant)
To address the issue of chronic illnesses in Jordan, International Medical Corps, in partnership with Jordan Health Aid Society (JHAS), implemented the Healthy Lifestyles (HLS) family-based campaign from 2010-2011. Available to Jordanian and Iraqi refugee beneficiaries of three International Medical Corps-supported health clinics in Jordan, HLS is a behavior change communication (BCC) project that provided families with both knowledge of risk factors leading to chronic diseases and preventive measures against these diseases. Specific areas of focus included health risk factors such as smoking, obesity and high cholesterol to help beneficiaries manage their own health conditions and practice healthy lifestyle habits. Available to beneficiaries seeking services at Abu Nseir Clinic (Amman), Irbid Clinic (Irbid) and Zarqa Clinic (Zarqa), the HLS campaign was available to participants with at least one family member already suffering from diabetes or hypertension. Presence of other risk factors among the rest of the family members was also taken into consideration.
As chronic diseases result from many factors, the HLS campaign focused on interventions that simultaneously addressed:
1. Nutrition and weight management
2. Physical activity
3. Health-seeking behaviors
Comprised of clinic- and community-based events (including a four-day camp), the HLS campaign aimed to raise awareness of the benefits of healthy nutrition and physical activity with exercises designed specifically for patients with chronic conditions. International Medical Corps’ HLS campaign reached 25 Iraqi and Jordanian families (100 individuals in total) and was designed to increase participants’ knowledge on healthy lifestyle choices and facilitate the acquisition of skills needed to practice these choices, as well as encourage them to do regular medical check-ups and seek health care. The entire family was engaged in the process, while accommodating different needs of family members based on their age and health status.
Families participating in the program were taught to:
· prepare healthy food
· quantify daily food portions by food group
· practice daily exercises
· practice home-based management of chronic conditions through basic monitoring of:
- body mass index
- blood pressure
- blood sugar
- food, salt, sugar and coffee intake
The families were divided over three-month-long-rounds during which they attended a four-day HLS camp that took place at Youth Hostels of the Ministry of Health in Aqaba or Ajloun. Families were accompanied by a multi-disciplinary team of International Medical Corps and JHAS program staff who organized and oversaw the camp program activities. Upon successful completion of the camp, families started regular participation in both clinic and community-based activities. Effectiveness and sustainability of families’ achievements was monitored through both a Knowledge Attitudes and Practices (KAP) survey that gathered self-reported behavioral data from participants and quarterly gathering and monitoring of bio indicators.