Australia Awards in Indonesia

The Australia Awards are prestigious, transformational scholarships and short courses offered to emerging leaders for study, research and professional development in Australia

16 Apr 2024

Small Change, Big Impact: Yumiati Tuwa Ringu Finds a New Way to Educate About Child Stunting

A simple yet effective innovation is providing education on child stunting in West Sumba, thanks to Yumiati Tuwa Ringu’s search for new ways to connect mothers with health professionals.

The head of Wee Karou Public Health Center (PHC) came up with the idea while attending the Australia Awards Short Course on Digital Technologies for the Healthcare Sector (including Telehealth) held by The University of Queensland in 2022.

The Information System on Preventing Stunting, known as Si Chatting, uses the popular WhatsApp communication platform to facilitate discussion and education on stunting and nutrition between health workers and mothers.

The early results from Si Chatting were so promising that the local government rolled it out to a further 10 PHCs in West Sumba.

In recognition of her impact on the district, the government awarded Yumi the Model Health Worker in the Nurse Category at West Sumba in 2022.

“Since my arrival in Australia, I have been wondering if my hometown could catch up with the technological developments in Australia.” Yumi said, looking back on the Short Course.

“I learned the priority is the human resource. A small innovation can still make a big impact as long as the people are willing to change for the better.”

Education and Monitoring Platform

Digital transformation has rapidly taken place in every aspect of human life since the COVID-19 pandemic forced the world to undergo tremendous change.

With the digital transition of Indonesia's health sector, Yumi felt it was important to learn more about the potential of the technologies, including telemedicine.

According to the latest data published by the West Sumba Health Office, the prevalence of stunting in West Sumba in August 2023 was 12.3%, or 1,313 children suffering from stunting.

In her work to reduce the high number of child stunting cases in eastern Indonesia, Yumi has only two nutritionists at her disposal.

She relies on conventional methods to monitor stunting cases, which do not always get results.

“We usually go door to door to monitor the children and give education about stunting to the mothers,” she said.

In the Short Course, Yumi actively searched for answers on how to use digital transformation for the problems she faced in the stunting prevention program.

“Throughout the Course, I asked for advice from the lecturers on what could be the simplest and best platform to monitor stunting cases,” Yumi said.

Using WhatsApp as the platform for Si Chatting, Yumi invited mothers, PHC staff, and nutritionists to a group that includes nutritional counselling on local food, monitoring the growth of the children, and the distribution of supplementary food.

A total of 30 infants under two years old were involved in the pilot project for Si Chatting. From November 2022 to January 2023, the number of infants of normal weight increased from nine to 16.

"Before Si Chatting was developed, there were no places (online) that could be used to discuss stunting issues between mothers and health workers,” Yumi said. “After implementing Si Chatting, mothers are more open to share and ask about stunting among themselves and health workers."

Husband-Wife Duo Against Stunting

Yumi has many things in common with her husband, Roy Pefi Riwu Bara, including a determination to make progress on the issue of child stunting.

Both of them are alumni of the Australia Awards Scholarships who have worked to tackle childhood stunting in their hometown in East Nusa Tenggara.

Roy, who got his Masters in Public Health at Curtin University in 2021, has worked on reducing stunting cases through his work at The National Population and Family Planning Board in Kupang.

A few years later, Yumi followed in her husband's footsteps after he encouraged her to further her studies in Australia.

Having experienced the concrete benefits of studying in Australia, Yumi now motivates her peers to pursue their studies in Australia, including fellow nurses.

“The Course also has helped me to improve my ability to initiate cross-sectoral collaboration with institutions that are not health-related,” Yumi said.

“I want people in West Sumba to have the opportunity to further their studies in Australia.”

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