Why is using entertainment vital to promote youth health, and climate action?

Why is using entertainment vital to promote youth health, and climate action?
Students plant a tree as part of the climate action plan

As young people increasingly embrace the internet and social media platforms, health information expert and innovator Philip Mwebaza Andrew has launched Smarty, a digital entertainment platform.

Smarty shares health and climate action information using games, cartoons, challenges, quizzes, and other engaging means to reach the youth.

During the platform's launch at Kasangati High School on April 19, 2024, Mwebaza, founder of the African Health Grid Foundation (AFHEG), explained that he recognized the challenge of reaching youths who spend most of their time online, playing games, and consuming entertaining content.

"With most youth spending their time on the internet, social media, and gaming platforms, it's increasingly difficult for health informants to engage with them physically," he noted.

"Understanding that entertainment is their primary focus on these platforms, I saw an opportunity to utilize entertainment avenues to promote health and climate action," he added.

As part of the launch event, students at the school participated in an aerobics session, engaging in various dance strokes and fitness positions.

Next, they participated in a gaming session where students aimed to shoot the ball into a tiny goal post, aligning with a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) they felt passionate about.

They explained how they intended to promote and contribute to their chosen SDG. Additionally, students recited a variety of health-themed poems, including "My Day" by Raheem Nsubuga Bantubalamu, leaving their peers in awe.

Following the entertainment session, lectures were conducted covering various topics, including mental health, menstrual hygiene, Climate Action, personal hygiene, career guidance, and more.

The event transitioned to an online session where students accessed and logged into the Smarty platform to enjoy a variety of games, such as Fight Virus, Hero Doctor, puzzles, and more.

The platform also offers informative sections, including health courses, podcasts, health explainer animations, and other resources.

One student, Ukasha Ssemambo, who successfully logged in and explored the platform, praised the engaging nature of the Hero Doctor game.

He described it as a challenging puzzle that required critical thinking and provided valuable insights into various health aspects.

"All the games are enjoyable, but Hero Doctor stood out because it pushes you to think hard to piece everything together," he shared.

Another student, Nisha Nassali, expressed her appreciation for the aerobics session and the informative lectures. She particularly valued learning about different Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their significance. Nisha expressed her intention to apply this newfound knowledge to advocate for health and climate action literacy in her community.

The school's head teacher, Peter Kizza Kiyingi, welcomed the platform launch, recognizing its potential benefits for the students.

He emphasized the importance of embracing digital initiatives, especially considering the shifting focus of the youth towards the digital age. Reflecting on the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, he highlighted the platform's role in bridging the gap between health informers and youth, serving as both an entertainment and information-sharing hub.

Health expert Joy Nsamba underscored the vast opportunities presented by the digital space for innovators in the health sector. She emphasized the potential of platforms like Smarty to enhance health literacy and attract a wide audience, ultimately improving public health outcomes.

The event concluded with various activities, including the launch of Smarty and the Health Defenders Club, as well as a tree-planting ceremony. Female students received donations of sanitary pads and soap, promoting menstrual hygiene and personal care.

Philip Andrew Mwebaza is a highly experienced health communication expert and journalist known for his significant contributions to health education.

As the Founder of the AFHEG Foundation (African Health Grid), he utilizes compelling storytelling and gamified e-learning to empower communities with equitable health information.

With a strong academic foundation from prestigious institutions such as the University of Washington, the University of Austin in Texas, the World Health Organization, and the Centers for Disease Control, Mwebaza's expertise spans diverse areas including global health policy, health literacy, gender and reproductive health, mental health, and health communication.

He is dedicated to empowering individuals with accurate health information and contributing to the collective goal of creating a healthier world for all.

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