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Educating Community Groups About Parasite Infection and its Impact

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Child participating in educational activity

University of Manchester

Globally, the biggest killer of people under fifty is infection. Many infections such as parasitic helminths are common in developing countries and are a major reason children in the developing world miss out on education. There are major initiatives to eradicate helminthiases by deworming school children, however education surrounding infection transmission is also of great importance. Working with immigrant communities in the UK provides an ideal opportunity for us to learn more about infection first hand and enhance our research into biology and immunology of helminth infection, whilst also sharing our work with the communities. Surprisingly, however, our work with the immigrant communities revealed a real lack of awareness about the significance of helminth infection. Indeed, in many instances little was known about what infection was and how infections were transmitted. To bridge this gap in knowledge we have created English and science literacy resources, which we have trialled and delivered to community groups.

To achieve the aims of the project we developed relationships with ESOL teachers (Indira Mclean and Marianne Rushton) based at Bolton College. The teachers already teach and work with immigrants to deliver English lessons. Indira was a partner in our focus group discussion in which we defined what students wanted to learn about and what they currently knew. Based on the information sourced from the focus groups we co-created the resources that were used for the ESOL lessons. The teachers enjoyed delivering the resource as they felt they were delivering something of practical use to participants and they also enjoyed learning about new topics themselves. We, the researchers were able to learn about experiences of infection which has motivated us to change our research direction to e.g. develop biomarkers of infection or vaccines. Furthermore, new avenues of research may be identified for example discussion with one participant from rural Ethiopia described a local anti-worming home-made remedy which we are interested in studying further to establish if it does have anti-helminthic properties. The students reported benefits too, enjoying the course and stating that not only did they feel the course improved their English but also that they felt more comfortable using science/medical terms at e.g. the GP. Sample comments from participants included:

"I have to say I enjoyed and I learned. Lot of new words. The course was useful. Thanks.”

“All topics was my favourite because everything I learnt was new for me and I knew many things which I can use now in my daily life”

“My favourite topic was immune system, vaccines and herd immunity because it is useful in my children’s life.”