It Takes a Workplace
HealthWorks program impacting about 11,600 women in five factories in Indonesia.
Subang has been a farming town, but factories are quickly moving in and currently about 66,000 women are employed in factories here. Project HOPE is working with about 11, 600 women in five factories with our innovative HealthWorks program, funded by MSD Merck for Mothers.
Today we visited a factory that employs about 2,000 women and talked with the factory managers about the new HealthWorks program. The managers told us about how Project HOPE opened the door for them to partner with the local health center for health promotion and primary care access for women. Before Project HOPE came to facilitate the relationship between the factory owners and the government health centers, there was little trust or motivation to work together to improve the health of the factory workers. But Project HOPE’s successful HealthWorks program has convinced the factory owners that better health for the employees means more productive employees, and that the government health staff could provide services and needed health information without interrupting the workers’ production.
Meeting later that day with Dr. Budi the Chief of the District Health Office, he confirmed that before Project HOPE began implementing the HealthWorks program, it was difiuclt to reach the young women who needed services and information about maternal and child health because they were no longer able to participate in the monthly outreach sessions taking place in the villages, because they were now at work.
Both sides, the factory management and government health partnership, are now experiencing a mutual benefit. The factory compliance manager, Mrs. Herawati, has initiated a volunteer worker-to-worker health education program, for peer support among workers to reinforce the health education given by government health staff and by the factory clinic nurse who has joined trainings on how to counsel workers about a range of health topics such as anemia, breastfeeding, and family planning. We attended a peer education session, which happens every Wednesday during work hours for about 30 minutes. Differing work divisions join on a rotating basis, and today there were pregnant young women in the group. One asked, what can I do to make sure I have enough breast milk? We saw that there is now a refrigerator at the clinic specifically for expressed breast milk, and a private place to express milk. But still, few women continue to breastfeed after returning to work after maternity leave contributing to the low national rates of exclusive breastfeeding in Indonesia. The factory is committed to encouraging breastfeeding and will continue to use multiple approaches such as posters, discussion sessions and counseling to get more health information to women.
The volunteer program has been incorporated in the job descriptions of workers selected by the factory management and government health staff, and the peer volunteers also meet monthly to plan education sessions. One volunteer educator created a new program to have health education discussions on the long bus ride home that many workers have daily.
The Indonesian Ministry of Health is very interested in the HealthWorks program, as it is consistent with their guidelines for workplace health, and helps to demonstrate to them ways to operationalize their policy which had not yet been carried out.
One of the factory initiatives is to ensure women have access to clean drinking water at all times during their work, and they provide refill stations for women to get filtered water. They can also refill bottles to take home with them to encourage them to drink at home as well.
It is clear that the factory and the government health clinic have a strong relationship, and this is their program going forward. Project HOPE and our local NGO partner are supporting the building of the relationship but it is clear the sustainability will come from their ‘ownership’ from the beginning. Yet more factories are coming into town, and we only are reaching five factories out of 100 or more factories. The government is asking for continued help to introduce programs in more factories to get them off to a good start for ongoing quality private-public partnerships for a better and healthier future for women and their children.