Speech-Language Therapy students from UKZN and University of Zululand (UNIZULU) Consumer Sciences students’ second annual workshop linked to a broader project called “Tackling Hunger with Research and Innovation in Vulnerable Environments” (THRIVE) for Community Health Workers (CHWs) at UNIZULU.
UKZN’s Professor Mershen Pillay said that the project is about “decolonising deliciousness” and emphasises that being poor, disabled and living in vulnerable economic contexts does not mean that one can’t enjoy food. Driven by the adage that “food is everyone’s business”, the programme aims to contribute to reducing hunger in KwaZulu-Natal and the country as a whole by offering community-based training on food security and persons with disabilities, especially those who have difficulty swallowing.
Fourth-year Speech-Language Therapy student, Ms Sarah Mingay, said the project targets CHWs and community caregivers as they are able to connect health care professionals to community members. Over the past two years 120 community workers have been trained, impacting 1 800 homes. This is a far more sustainable approach than the “helicopter” one of flying in and out of communities.
The 2019 training content was based on a community needs analysis conducted by consumer and health science students earlier in the year, and was developed with the help of academics from both institutions. The project promotes food sovereignty though the “one home one garden” initiative, indigenous pharmacy farms, food preparation and food modification for people with disabilities. The training demonstrated inter-professional education (IPE) and inter-professional practice in action, as students from the two institutions worked together to develop and present the workshop as part of their practical/clinical education. This IPE framework is a novel one which could serve as a useful model in the College of Health Sciences and UKZN’s other Colleges.
UKZN Lecturer Dr Penelope Flack said, ‘Food security and hunger was a logical thing for both student groups to start working on, particularly among the most vulnerable of vulnerable groups, people living with disability in a resource constrained environment. The project aimed to explore how the two professions could work together to make food both safe and accessible to people with challenges.’
UNIZULU Consumer Science students shared a self-developed menu of easily accessible, nutritious foods that the CHWs can use. This was supported by research on food texture by Ms Marilize de Villiers, supervised by Pillay, Dr Legini Moodley (Speech-Language Therapy) and Mechanical Engineer Professor Ben Hanson of the University College London. Drs Calvin A Omolo and Ayman A Waddad of UKZN’s Discipline of Pharmaceutics assisted by testing methods to prepare a low cost, specialised nutritious food called ePap (www.epap.co.za) to match diet textures (see www.iddsi.org) for people with varied swallowing difficulties. Pillay commented that this was a sterling example of ‘taking science from the laboratory to the community.’
Guest speakers at the workshop included Occupational Therapist Ms Taylor Van Reese and Dietitian Ms Emily Weideman, both of whom are completing their year of community service at Ngwelezana Hospital, fourth-year UKZN Physiotherapy students Mr Ruen Jewnarain and Mr Nate Way and Mr Themba Bogosie, a Medical student who trained in Cuba and has a special interest in community-based healthcare.
Speech-Language Therapy students Ms A Russel, Ms S Mingay and Ms D Mhlanga, and UNIZULU Consumer Science students Ms N Mkhwanazi, Mr C Gwala, Ms S Nsele, Ms S Khanyi, and Ms S Zungu offered innovative demonstrations and a poem/rap reflecting a family case study.
Flack commended the students for their work: ‘They were very committed in preparing for the workshop, and dealt with challenges in a professional manner.’ The students work independently, and begin preparing for the workshop at the beginning of the year, with each new rotation continuing the work done by the previous group. The workshop is presented by the third rotation.
Mingay said they were grateful to UKZN’s Pillay and Flack and UNIZULU lectures, Dr Cornelia Du Preez and Professor Unathi Kolanisi, who were all instrumental in making the collaboration possible.
Words: Nombuso Dlamini