Engaging ethnic minority communities through performance and arts: health education in Cambodian forest villages

James J. Callery, Nou Sanann, Rupam Tripura, Thoek Buntau, T. Peto, Pich Kunthea, Christopher Pell, Ung soviet, Chea Nguon, Dysoley Lek, Phaik Yeong Cheah

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In Siem Pang, northeastern Cambodia, malaria transmission persists in remote forested areas populated by ethnic minorities. Engaging affected communities in health education campaigns is challenging due to language, access and literacy constraints. During 2018, a newly established medical research station conducted a health education programme in local villages harnessing traditional songs, arts and crafts, along with theatre, comedy and health talks and quizzes. Health education topics were proposed by community leaders and focused on maternal and child health and malaria. This article describes a process evaluation of these activities, the community's response and whether this was an appropriate form of health education in this context.

In-depth interviews were conducted with community members, leaders and performers. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed and translated to English for thematic analysis.

In total, 65 interviews were conducted; 20 of these were follow-up interviews with respondents interviewed prior to the performances. Respondents were able to recall the key health messages about malaria, antenatal care and infant vaccination. They also showed good awareness of malaria transmission and prevention and described how they enjoyed the events and appreciated the efforts of the project team.

In isolated communities in Cambodia, a health education programme harnessing performance and arts engaged the whole community and its messages were readily recalled and prompted reflection.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)188-195
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Health
Issue number2
Early online date10 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 24 Feb 2021


  • Cambodia
  • community engagement
  • ethnic minority
  • health education
  • malaria
  • performance arts

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