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Health & Fitness

NYS graduates’ entry into public health timely

A pass-out parade at the National Youth Service
A pass-out parade at the National Youth Service College in Gilgil, Nakuru County. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

If you have been fortunate enough as an employer to interact with a NYS-trained employee, you may have noticed their distinction in a few traits. For me two things stand out: discipline as well as the quality of their work. That notwithstanding, there are also a few who fall short of these strengths.

Last week’s pass-out of the NYS cadets was notable. This was the first cohort following last year’s negative NYS publicity with alleged loss of billions in dubious deals. Historically, it was also the first time the entity had a cohort “poached” into health interventions as reported in social media.

Traditionally, the NYS has been noted for exceptionally trained and skilled craftsmen in trades like mechanics, masonry, driving and heavy construction. All this borrows from the almost militaristic training the institution imparts on her students, but also the blended community service mantra.

The ongoing rains have been both a blessing and a curse, sadly with numerous cases of flooding, mudslides, infrastructure breakdown as well as loss of life reported all over the country.

While not much loss of life has been reported in urban areas, roads, bridges, water ways, waste water drainages and uncollected garbage have all been affected. The aftermath of this breakdown in order will be felt for some months to come once the rains subside.

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After the pass-out parade, it appears that for the first time NYS graduates will be playing a role in our public health interventions. A very commendable approach especially in combining their discipline and skills gained at the community level.

Vector control, infrastructure maintenance, and in urban areas water and sewer infrastructure monitoring and repair as well as other proximal determinants of health like environmental conservation are potential areas they could make contributions in. Politics aside, NYS youths’ effectiveness was noted in their previous deployment in a few areas. Their efforts however fizzled out due to non-alignment with the community health structures.

As far as formalisation of their engagement is involved, proponents of this new model should aim at embedding them into existing community health structures. This involves inculcating them into community health volunteers (CHVs) training and ensuring they are collaborators and not replacements of the former.

It is also important for auxiliary health service affiliates to support them in developing win-win situations. Certainly NYS graduates have far superior skills at certain levels. Could they complement what is already on the ground to amplify the magnitude of the desired impact of community interventions?

Though a boost in the arm in our fight against disease and ill health, a glaring question is what strategy will be used to guarantee continuity of service for the cadets given the struggles in remunerating current CHVs. Prioritising their remuneration over the plight of volunteering community health volunteers would also be a concern.

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