Special to American Forces Press Service
Dec. 10, 2007 - Soldiers from Multinational Division Baghdad conducted a health fair for students at the Al Aflaph elementary school in the Salhiyah neighborhood of Baghdad earlier this month. Preventive measures, such as practicing good personal hygiene, were the focus of the fair, conducted by soldiers from Company E, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, and Company C, 15th Brigade Support Battalion, both of which are part of 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.
"We're here with a couple of people from 15th BSB's preventive medicine section teaching the local children and teachers how to stay healthy in Iraq – keeping germs down, brushing your teeth, just general public health," said Army Capt. Greg Turner, commander of Company E and a Butler, Pa. native. "It's just basically something to help better the community."
A group of about 30 students attended a presentation, given by Army Sgt. Danielle Stephens, a preventive medicine specialist, while a group of teachers received a similar presentation from the brigade's preventive medicine officer, 1st Lt. Gabrielle Caldara.
"We talked about bacteria and viruses, especially the importance of hand washing. Hand washing is the first defense in helping with any illness," said Stephens, who is originally from Phoenix.
Several other topics also were discussed, including daily teeth brushing, healthy eating habits, and the dangers of mosquitoes and rabid animals.
Stephens said she and Caldara hope the teachers will have the information they need to follow up with what the students learned.
"It's kind of like a train-the-trainer (concept)," Stephens said. "They will be able to continue on with the training with the kids and teach them how to wash their hands and things like that."
Along with the presentation, Stephens also handed out hygiene items such toothpaste and hand sanitizer to the children. She said that while she has given similar types of presentations to American school children, this was the first time she has done this in Iraq. "I love working with the kids," she said. "This has probably been one of the most enjoyable experiences that I've had here. Kids are the same everywhere, whether they are in Iraq or the United States."
Stephens also said she was surprised by the level of knowledge the students already had as they successfully answered question after question she posed to them.
"They're very aware, especially of rabies," she said. "Some of the questions I asked about rabies and some of the pictures that we showed, they knew exactly what it was before I told them. So they're very aware of what their environment is and what it takes to keep themselves safe; they're pretty smart kids."
(Army Sgt. Robert Yde is assigned to 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Public Affairs.)