Q&A: Healthy children build healthy community

Since Haji Jono Wasinudin was appointed as the Head of Ledokombo subdistrict in Indonesia, he found many health issues in the area. He works with the Technical Implementation Units to solve this issue by implementing various programs for a healthier Ledokombo.

What inspires and motivates you to make a healthier Ledokombo?

JW: Efforts to fight stunting in Ledokombo subdistrict is not as I expected. As of November 2018, there are more than 351 children in ten villages who are malnourished.

We strive to improve our efforts gradually, through collaboration with various stakeholders. This collaboration is not only implemented by the government but also by the community-based organizations. For example, with Tanoker, we collaborate in various community activities to provide more access to healthy food.

Apart from that, as I came from health-related educational background, I can tell that health is an urgent problem in Ledokombo. Health problem here is not only stunting, but also HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis. Based on the current situation, health promotion in Ledokombo is relatively far behind some districts in Jember that are closer to urban areas. This motivates us to make Ledokombo a better and more livable area for its communities, including children.

In recent years, Ledokombo has been active in organizing activities involving community. Where does the enthusiasm come from? Did you find any challenge?

JW: Our efforts were inspired by what we see every day. We want to build a better Ledokombo. To do that, we need to develop and empower people that they can start from themselves, investing in early childhood. If children are healthy, Insha Allah, our next generation will have a better future.

We encourage children to get used to eating three times a day, based on required balanced nutritional. We do not provide them with food that only looks appetizing, but we want to familiarize the children in eating a simple, wholesome meal that does not have to be expensive, but nutritious, hygienic, and contains no preservatives.

Now, the food consumption pattern in Ledokombo did not meet the government target. Ideally, the food consumed should contain three nutritional elements­: ­carbohydrates, protein, and minerals. However, the problem is that children are more likely to eat what is familiar to them and tend to focus on one element such as eating rice with noodles. Nevertheless, it is a challenge for us to make a healthy food movement in rural areas where most people – middle or lower middle class – have low level of education (below high school level). Promoting healthy diets would require good examples, practiced by many stakeholders to convince more people, but we don’t have many of those.

The collaborative approach seems to be the key strategy. What are your current initiatives?

JW: To achieve Jember Regency’s vision as a Child Friendly Region, we collaborate a lot with schools, such as through the School Health Unit. We are also working together with the Kindergarten Teachers Association.

Every day, we make a healthy meal menu, that is different each week. For example, we prepare vegetables with tuna fish every Monday. We involve the families and parents of the students in making this menu, ensuring the diversity of cuisines and recipe. Parents provide information about the latest trend for children’s favorite food. We try to educate the children to eat less instant food gradually and more healthy food. We are happy that there are some visible changes. For instance, children in some kindergartens have started to eat vegetables, even though they used to hate eating vegetables.

As a Camat, I do not work alone. There are many parties supporting me, such as Tanoker, Perintis Community, village organizations, and the local branch of the Indonesian Family Welfare Organization. We also formed a team called Gebrak Desa, a joint movement of volunteers, the armed force and the police, Public Health Agency, districts, and villages. It is expected that we would use this platform to also promote healthy food, as it is also in line with the Ministry of Health and Jember Health Agency’s Healthy Lifestyle Movement. In addition to the stakeholders in Ledokombo subdistrict, we are also supported by institutions like Hivos, through its current collaboration with Tanoker.

Did you also introduce your efforts to other areas?

JW: We will use the weekly Car Free Day event to introduce healthy food to the people in other subdistricts or villages in Jember. We also have the monthly Mud Market  (Pasar Lumpur), which has already been an icon of Ledokombo. We will try to make Pasar Lumpur to be more attractive and easier to accessed by the people within and outside Ledokombo.

Jono Wasinudin (Photo by BrandOutLoud)

How do you give examples of healthy food for people?

JW: Alhamdulillah, I have practiced it at home. My favorite food is pecel, a typical Javanese food, especially in Ngawi and Madiun. It is healthy and cheap, contains vegetables and protein from tempe or tofu. Giving examples is a challenge for me in the matters of discipline in what I eat. I do not want our food to be eroded by fast food.

In the larger sense, I believe that building a society, indeed, starts from building its people. Children needs to be introduced to a healthy lifestyle as early as possible, by doing sports, play, and of course eat healthy.


To learn more about Haji Jono Wasinudin’s story and the lives of other individuals championing healthy food in Indonesia, watch ‘Healthy Generations Ahead’,  under a collaboration between Hivos and IIED, produced by BrandOutLoud, for the SD4All program.