NRH received swaddle baby blankets from the Burnet Institute and NCIRS

Courtesy of Burnet Institute
Mary Tuhaika wrapping her son Jake in a baby swaddle blanket.
Mary Tuhaika wrapping her son Jake in a baby swaddle blanket (Photo courtesy of Esther Nuria).

Six thousand community co-designed infant swaddle blankets promoting immunization in the Solomon Islands have been handed over to the National Referral Hospital recently by the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) and the Burnet Institute in Australia.

National Referral Hospital (NRH), Chief Executive Officer Dr George Malefoasi in receiving the donations thanked representative of the donors for the generous support to our babies currently in the children wards. In 2023, 6,177 births were recorded at NRH which is an increase of about 17% from 2022. The hospital is so grateful for the gifts.

Tanya Perrin, Global Health Project Coordinator, in Solomon Islands, stated the COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted delivery of vaccine programs, resulting in reduced coverage of routine immunisations for children under five years.

“A series of activities were undertaken to identify zero-dose (no Pentavalent-1 vaccine) children and to understand factors impacting under-immunised and zero-dose children. Key findings from stakeholder consultations highlighted several reasons why children have not been vaccinated, including a generalised lack of awareness amongst parents about the importance of immunisation and the schedule of childhood vaccines,” explained Mrs. Perrin.

“Infant swaddle blankets have previously been used as an incentive for parents but are rarely combined with educational messages. We co-designed blankets with community members to serve as a visual reminder for parents with low literacy and promote the importance of timely immunisation.”

“Four provinces, Honiara, Guadalcanal, Western and Malaita have the highest number of unvaccinated children and were identified as pilot sites. Stakeholder consultations were undertaken to develop a visually appealing and informative design to print on blankets, using images to reflect the national immunisation schedule. The blankets were pre-tested through a series of informal interviews with pregnant and postpartum women to ensure health messaging was understood. Infant swaddle blankets were printed and disseminated to provinces via the SafeMotherhood program, with the aim to distribute one blanket to each birthing mother in four targeted provinces in 2024 (12,500 blankets in total)”, explained Mrs. Perrin.

She added interviews and focus groups will be undertaken with health care workers, village health committees and caregivers in the first half of 2024.

“Initial evaluation of the program implementation phase will describe the extent to which health messages communicated on the swaddle blankets were both understood by parents and influenced parental propensity to return for their child’s scheduled vaccine visits”, she said.

This article was written by Esther Nuria and published in the print version of the local Solomon Islands paper on 12 April 2024.

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