Identifying Cultural Themes in a Shared Experience of Water Hygiene Education Partners

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Lack of safe drinking water and lack of water hygiene literacy contribute to a large disease burden in rural areas of Africa, and children suffer disproportionately more than adults from diarrheal diseases caused by nonpotable water. Research is needed to help merge education and water sanitation to provide more effective methods of preventing diarrheal diseases. The ecological model and hygiene improvement framework were used to guide the study. The purpose of thisphenomenological study was to describe the shared experiences of people participating in the water hygiene education program provided by Lifewater International. Lifewater is a nonprofit organization focused on improving access to clean water and increasing water hygiene literacy in rural parts of developing countries. Individual interviews were conducted with six Lifewater program participants, using the Delphi sampling technique. After I transcribed and thematically analyzed data for codes, three main themes were identified that motivated Lifewater partners and members of their community to change behavior: improving their children’s health, saving time and money, and being a better Christian. The most meaningful part of participating in the program is that they use the information to improve the lives of those in their communities. In addition to making curricula for the Lifewater organization and its partners more streamlined, if the lessons are more culturally relevant, people are more likely to accept the behavior changes being taught, which can also influence the behavior change. Culturally relevant curriculum could help increase the access to and knowledge of clean water in developing areas, which contributes to the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals, and thus promotes social change.

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