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close this book Population and Health
View the document Contents
View the document Aims/objectives
View the document Basic concepts
View the document Activity no. 1 - Basic needs for good health
View the document Activity no. 2 - Preparing oral rehydration treatment solution
View the document Activity no. 3 - A visit or visits from a social worker from the ministry of health

Population and Health


Before using this guide, please read the notes in the introduction booklet.

All of the material in this module has been carefully thought out and tested with youth groups in a number of countries. It contains material which is thought to be important and appropriate for young people to know. However, because every group is different, it is not possible to produce a booklet which is perfect for everyone, so it is important to remember that this booklet is intended as a guide for the leader.

This means that it is up to you the leader to use this material as you see fit You may wish to adapt some of the group activities to make them more appropriate to your group.

Some of the material you may not wish to present yourself - perhaps because you do not feel technically competent or because you find it embarrassing or awkward to discuss certain matters with the youth group. In these cases you may wish to ask a local expert in that subject to address your youth group. For example, an agricultural extension officer for the agriculture projects, a small business advisor for income generating activities or a health worker for the health and nutrition aspects. Use of a resource person like this does not make your role as the group leader any less important, but they can add interest and authority to the subjects taught.

The modules may be used in any order, but the modules with the same colour cover are best used together since they cover one general area

First edition was published and field tested in 1988 and 1989 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Project INT/88/P98 "Integration of Population Education into Programmes for Rural Youth in Low-Income Countries" with funding from the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA).

This revision was published in 1990 and is based on field test findings from the first edition.

The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official view of FAO. The designations employed and the presentation of material in this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of FAO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

Original Concept and Text: W.I. Lindley & S.A. Dembner

This Revision: J.F. Cook

Original Illustrations: Teresa Cedeño

This Revision: Pandora Money





Basic concepts

Activity no. 1 - Basic needs for good health

Activity no. 2 - Preparing oral rehydration treatment solution

Activity no. 3 - A visit or visits from a social worker from the ministry of health




By participating in the activities of this module, it is intended that rural youth will:

  • Understand the concept of good health and be able to state at least five important points for maintaining good health.
  • Recognize the importance of good health for the individual, family and community.
  • Understand that they, themselves, are the most important people in maintaining their own health.
  • Understand the effects of family size, and total community population, on the quality of health and health care and sanitation facilities.



Basic concepts

  • Health is a valuable personal, family and community asset for which we are each responsible as individuals.
  • In areas where the population is growing rapidly, health and sanitation facilities are often inadequate, and diseases and sickness are more common.
  • To protect their health, young women should delay pregnancy until they are at least 20 years old, and then space their children.
  • Misuse of alcohol and drugs is very dangerous to health for everyone, and especially for pregnant women.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are a serious health problem and young men and women need to know how to avoid them.



Activity no. 1 - Basic needs for good health

Basic needs for good health

A group discussion accompanied by the use of flash cards to promote understanding of the negative impact of rapid population growth on the basic factors necessary for good health.



  • The leader first starts off a discussion by asking what is meant by health and asking group members to identify ways in which they can stay healthy.
  • Once the members have identified the main points (if necessary with help from the leader), the leader shifts the discussion to an analysis of how rapid population growth can negatively affect these points.
  • To simulate discussion, the leader uses the prepared flash cards showing, on one -side, the basic factors for health, and on the other, the result of rapid population growth.


So that group members will be able to:

  • Understand the concept of good health.
  • Recognize the basic factors which are necessary for good health.
  • Understand how rapid increases in population can contribute to poor health.



  • The background information on the following pages.
  • The prepared flash cards on basic health factors that accompany this module.
  • Group participation.

Some background information for the group leader

What do we mean by good health?

By good health we mean the set of conditions necessary for our bodies and minds to function efficiently. Some important things in maintaining good health are:

  1. good nutrition
  2. clean and safe drinking water
  3. rest and sleep
  4. good sanitation
  5. personal hygiene
  6. immunization against diseases
  7. adequate provision and use of health and medical facilities
  8. adequate housing
  9. food hygiene
  10. control of pests (rats, mosquitoes, flies)
  11. control of environmental and industrial pollution
  12. accident prevention (at home, at work, on the roads, etc.).

How are these factors affected by rapid population growth?

Nutrition. Rapid population growth can result in a decrease in quantity and quality of food per person. This can cause malnutrition and a decrease in resistance to disease. (See the module on Population and Nutrition for more information.)

Clean and safe drinking water. Clean water for household use is a basic requirement for good health. In many areas, there is not enough safe water. Rapid increases in population may force people to use unsafe water supplies such as polluted rivers and stagnant ponds. This leads to increases in infectious diseases, diarrhœa and dysentery, and also to water-borne diseases such as schistosomiasis (bilharzia).

Clean and safe drinking water

Rest and sleep. In large families, the workload for the mother and father increases and they often have too little time to rest. This can make their bodies weak and they can easily become sick. This is an especially difficult problem for women with large, young families.

Good sanitation

Note: You may wish to consider a soap-making project as a group income-generating activity.

Good sanitation. Good waste disposal facilities are a key to disease control. When the population in a village or community increases too rapidly, it can overburden sanitation facilities. When this happens, waste is often dumped into rivers or streams, creating a major health hazard.

Personal hygiene. Keeping our bodies and clothes clean helps to prevent the spread of disease. In many areas, soap and clean water are limited and rapid increases in population may mean that people, especially children, are inadequately washed and clothed.

Immunization against diseases. Certain diseases which once killed large numbers of people - polio, diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, tuberculosis, measles, German measles - can now be prevented by vaccination. The World Health Organization (WHO) has protected millions of people from these diseases and some, for example, smallpox, have been completely eliminated. But rapid increases in population are making it difficult if not impossible to reach everyone with the necessary vaccinations.

A clinic

Adequate provision and use of health and medical facilities. As the population increases, more and more people need health services. Thus, either more and more people have to share the existing services, in which case the quality of service declines; or health services have to he increased, i.e., more doctors, more nurses and more hospitals and health facilities. But there are two problems: first, it takes time to train doctors or build hospitals; second, it costs money.

In many countries, government money for health care is limited and so health facilities cannot keep up with population growth. Therefore, a rapid increase in the number of people may mean an increase in the number of people without access to adequate health care.

Adequate housing. When a family increases in size, the size of the house cannot always be increased. In fact, what usually happens is that more people share a room, or a bed or even sleep on the floor. These crowded conditions are had for both physical and mental health.

Food hygiene. Proper preparation of food is important in maintaining health, especially among children. When the population increases rapidly, wood and other fuels for cooking often become limited in supply. As a result, food may be poorly cooked and disease may easily be spread. Unclean food is a major cause of dysentery, one of the biggest killers of young children.

Control of pests (rodents, mosquitoes, flies). The increased waste produced by rapidly growing populations creates excellent breeding grounds for disease-carrying pests. The control of these pests requires increased care and expenditure, but in many cases the necessary resources are not available.

Food hygiene

Control of environmental and industrial pollution. As populations increase, there is a need for increased industrial production - more mining, more factories, more vehicles, etc. Unfortunately, in many areas around the world (not only in the developing countries) industry is being developed without proper thought for the environment. The result can he pollution of the basic natural resources we need to survive - air, water, agriculturally productive land, etc. This is discussed in more detail in the module on Population and Environment.

Control of environmental and industrial pollution

Accident prevention (in the home, at work, on the roads, etc.). In the home, large families tend to he overcrowded and the parents are usually overworked and tired. Under these conditions, accidents are common. A worker with a large family who is tired or badly nourished is much more likely to have accidents on the job or at home. Rapid increases in population lead to more traffic on streets and roads. Lorries and buses meant for only a few people, or not for transport of people at all, are often badly overcrowded and accidents are frequent.

Who is responsible for the health of the people?

People sometimes think that health is a service that should be provided by the government or the community. But it is important to understand that everyone has a personal responsibility for his or her own health, as well as that of the community.

It is up to each one of us as an individual to take care of our own health - to ensure that we consider each of the basic needs for good health on the preceding pages. In addition, we each have a responsibility to be certain that what we do does not damage the health of others.

For example, we need to be sure that the way we dispose of waste does not create a breeding ground for pests and diseases which can affect our neighbours. The effect of family size decisions on the rest of the community should also be considered. For example, what effect will a large family have on the ability of the community to provide good health and immunization services for everyone?


Activity no. 2 - Preparing oral rehydration treatment solution

Preparing oral rehydration treatment solution

A group activity to stress the potential of oral rehydrations therapy in saving the lives of infants affected by diarrhœa



  • The leader explains that one of the major causes of infant mortality is dehydration (loss of body fluids) as a result of diarrhœa The leader also describes the signs of dehydration.
  • The leader then tells the group the story on the following pages.
  • After the story, the group prepares a litre of oral rehydration solution and discusses its proper use.
  • To conclude the activity, the group members comment on the value of oral rehydration treatment (ORT) and perhaps identify babies in the community that are suffering from diarrhœa, or families in which a baby has died from dehydration.


So that the group members will be able to:

  • Recognize the symptoms of dehydration as a result of diarrhœa in infants.
  • Understand the potential of oral rehydration treatment (ORT) in saving lives of infants with diarrhœa.
  • Prepare and use ORT when necessary.



  • The story and background information on the following pages.
  • The following supplies: a one-litre bottle (for example, a large cold drink bottle); clean water; salt; sugar; a clean spoon.
  • Interest and participation.

Some background information for the group leader

Is diarrhœa a serious health problem for babies?

In Africa, infections are very common among babies. When a baby gets an intestinal infection, it often gets diarrhœa When a baby has diarrhœa it loses a lot of body fluids and can become dehydrated. This dehydration is very serious and can cause death if not treated quickly and properly. In fact, more babies die from diarrhœa-related dehydration than from the infections that are the cause of the diarrhœa

What are the signs of diarrhœa-related dehydration? diarrhœa means that the baby defecates very often and its faeces are very watery. This loss of body fluids results in the baby's eyes looking as if they are very far hack in its head and even if the baby cries it often sheds no tears. In addition, the baby's head can begin to look wrinkled or shriveled.

What can be done to help dehydrated babies?

There is a special liquid which can easily be prepared and given to the baby to drink. This is called oral rehydration treatment (ORT) solution.



Clean safe. Drinking water

To make oral rehydrations solution, you need to mix four large spoonfuls of sugar and one small spoonful of salt in one litre of boiled, clean water. (Packages of the right mix of salt and sugar can also be obtained at local stores or health clinics.)

Once the liquid has cooled, it should be given to the baby to drink by spoonfuls every half hour. The amount of liquid depends on the age of the baby.

If the baby is less than one year old, it should be given 10 spoonfuls every half hour. If the baby is between one and three years old, 15 spoonfuls every half hour. Between three and five years old, 20 spoonfuls every half hour.

Sarah and Harry

The story to start off the activity

One day, Sarah and her brother Harry went to visit their Aunt Jane, but when they got to her house they could hear their aunt crying. "Maybe we should come back another time," said Harry but Sarah said they should go in to see what was wrong. "Just like a girl to stick her nose in other people's business," said Harry, but he followed his sister into the house.

Sarah and Harry

"What's the matter Aunt Jane?" asked Sarah. Between sobs her aunt said, "It's the baby. She's sick and has diarrhœa Already this morning, I've had to clean her five times." Calmly, Sarah looked at her baby cousin. She noticed that the baby had sunken eyes and although she was crying, there were no tears on her face. Sarah also thought that the baby's head didn't look exactly right.

"Aunt Jane," said Sarah, "the baby is losing body fluids because of the diarrhœa and it's very important that we take care of her at once."

"But what can we do?," wailed Aunt Jane. 'The hospital is so far away and I have no money."

"What we need to do is to prepare a special liquid to give the baby to drink," said Sarah. "It's called oral rehydration treatment (ORT) solution.

Then Sarah turned to her brother and said, "Harry, get a bottle, some salt, some sugar and a clean spoon."

"Just like a girl to think she can boss everybody around," said Harry, but he went to fetch the things his sister needed.

Sarah put some clean water in a pot to boil and at the same time she explained to her aunt what they were going to do.

"We need to mix four large spoonfuls of sugar and one small spoonful of salt with one litre of hot, clean water. Then, when the mixture is cool, you should give the baby 10-20 spoonfuls to drink every half hour. This will help the baby rebuild her body fluids. This is very important because if a baby becomes very dehydrated it can even die."

Aunt Mary did as Sarah had told her and in a few days, the baby got over her infection and was just fine when Sarah and Harry came by to visit.

"Well, I guess you did know something after all," said Harry.

"Just like a girl," said Sarah.

Sarrah and Harry and the child



Activity no. 3 - A visit or visits from a social worker from the ministry of health

A visit or visits from a social worker from the ministry of health

A presentation by a resource person knowledgeable about common health problems (including STDs and alcohol and drug abuse), their causes and means of control.



  • The group leader makes arrangements in advance for a visit to the youth group by a worker from the Ministry of Health. The leader talks with the health worker and they agree to stress the points listed in the section on background information.
  • The leader explains to the group that the resource person has come to discuss with them the importance of maintaining their health, the causes, symptoms and control of common diseases, and to answer any questions they may have.
  • The social worker makes his or her presentation.


So that group members will be able to:

  • Gain information about why health is important and how they can stay healthy.
  • Learn about the causes, symptoms and control of common diseases.
  • Understand the relationship between common diseases and population pressure.
  • Learn about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), possible means of prevention and cure, and the importance of responsible sexual behaviour.



  • Advance preparation by the group leader.
  • The presentation by the health worker.
  • Interest and attention by group members.

Some background information for the group leader

Some background information for the group leader

Note: Resource persons such as health workers, agricultural extension agents and small business advisors can be used more than once - the same person might be of use several times during the period when these guides are used.

The health worker will be able to provide more information to you and the group members on prevention and cure of diseases and on health care generally. As explained at the beginning of this section, you may wish to leave the main part of discussion of health issues to a qualified health worker, but be prepared to join in the discussions. As the group leader, you will also be expected to know where to direct your members for further advice and help.

Booklets in this Leaders Guide Series:


Population and Agriculture

Population, Employment and Income

Population and the Environment

Population and Nutrition

Population and Health

The Family and Family Size

Human Growth and Development

Responsible Parenthood

How the Population Changes

Community Involvement

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Integration of Population Education into Programmes for Rural Youth INT/88/P9