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Silvina Alessio, ReAct: Educating children on antibiotic resistance is a future health investment

In honor of World AMR Awareness week, we have interviewed ReAct staff across the nodes to learn more about their role at ReAct and their work towards a world free from untreatable infections.

Silvina Alessio works as School health and microbial world – Coordinator for ReAct Latin America in Cuenca, Ecuador. She has directed the development of the ReAct material: the Alforja Educativa “School Health Education Microbial World". Material that has been used for many years and that is constantly evolving. 

Silvina Alessio with school children from the Alforja educational program in Latin America. Photo: ReAct Latin America.
Silvina Alessio, School health and microbial world – Coordinator, ReAct Latin America. Photo: ReAct Latin America.

What have you learned from working at ReAct?

– Working at ReAct has allowed me to learn more about what constitutes a global health problem and how each person, from their territory and institution, working interdisciplinary, can contribute in finding ways to address antibiotic resistance.

– Finding new connections and strategies, strengthening bonds with allies, always seeking involvement and community participation have all been great learning experiences.

Is there anything that you have been involved with at ReAct that you are particularly proud of?

– Since 2011, I have been involved in the construction of the Alforja Educativa Salud Escolar y Mundo Microbiano (Educational Knapsack: School Health and Microbial World). I have worked with coordinating the development of its materials, proposals, training, and regional expansion. The Alforja is an opportunity to raise awareness, educate, learn, play, feel tenderness, and empower oneself about the health of everyone.

School girl learning about antibiotic resistance. Photo: ReAct Latin America.

One aspect that makes me proud is how we at ReAct Latin America, are able to bring a complex issue to educators and children so that they can understand it so that they can build their own knowledge, and bring about changes in perceptions.

– Above all, the Niño a Niño (Child to Child) Methodology is a cross-cutting central way of working. Topics such as antibiotic resistance, the microbial world, the importance of the microbiome in health – are not covered in school curricula. Therefore, most children and adults in schools are unaware of their significance.

– Teachers are multiplying agents – and children are agents of change in their current lives, in their community, and in the future of planetary health.

“The Alforja is an opportunity to raise awareness, educate, learn, play, feel tenderness, hope, and empower oneself about the health of everyone.”

Silvina Alessio. Photo: ReAct Latin America.

You have been involved in the Alforja Educational Project; tell us more about what Alforja is and its purpose.

– The Alforja Educativa is a set of didactic tools, pedagogical mediators for the comprehensive educational approach to antibiotic resistance from a One Health perspective. It consists of activity guides structured in a “Child to Child Methodology”. With this material, educators and children learn together, build knowledge, play, and empower themselves on health issues, such as antibiotic resistance, that affect them.

– In addition, they can find stories, games, comics, songs, and videos that contribute to meaningful learning. The Alforja has a multiplying effect: teachers share it among themselves, in their institutions and with the children – and children in their schools, families and in their community.

Educational material from the Alforja Educativa. Photo: ReAct Latin America.

Why do you think it is important to educate the youth about the health challenge of antibiotic resistance?

– Antibiotic resistance is a global problem that requires collective actions through the involvement of the community, academia, science and public policies.

– Young people, children and the community have a lot of wisdom in health and have the power to bring about change in public policies.

– Everyone has the right to participate in their own health. In this sense, education should prioritize sensitization and awareness, collective action, and the strengthening and promotion of community empowerment.

About ReAct Latin America’s Alforja Project:

  •  One of ReAct Latin America’s most significant projects has been the inclusion of children as advocates for change to increase knowledge of antibiotic resistance and microbial life among other children, their families and communities.
  • Based on the ‘Child to Child’ approach, React Latin America and the Child to Child Centre has developed a major educational program for children called  Alforja Educativa. (source in Spanish).
  • The material also engages and educates the teachers, and the children educates their parents – giving a long-term perspective to bacteria and health.
  • The Alforja project has been expanded to include a number of counties in Kenya by ReAct Africa in 2018.