261787 Impact of an aerobic laughter therapy psychosocial support program on 3,305 orphans and vulnerable children from AIDS in South Africa over a three month period

Wednesday, October 31, 2012 : 9:10 AM - 9:30 AM

Memory Matanda, MSc (psychology) , HappyMetrics, InHappiness (International Happiness Institute), Johannesburg, South Africa
Bill Gee, Laughterologist , InHappiness (International Happiness Institute), Johannesburg, South Africa
Malik Jaffer, MPH , United States Agency for International Development, Pretoria, GA, South Africa
Background: Many of the 15 million orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) from AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa suffer trauma from watching one or both parents die slowly, and further trauma from death of siblings, separation from siblings, relocation, and social stigma. With little treatment available, this trauma can arrest or slow development and result in a host of childhood, youth, and lifelong mental health and social problems. A positive psychology based psychosocial support (PSS) program using aerobic laughter has been shown to heal trauma and improve mental health of OVC in a small sample in a South African daycare center. To assess the efficacy of the PSS program on a larger scale a group of 97 rural home-based care workers in Eastern Cape province, South Africa, were trained to provide the therapy to 3,305 OVC aged 0-18 years in their care. Methods: After a one-day group training, care workers implemented therapy with the children in their care. Qualitative assessment comprising individual interviews with care workers took place 2 weeks, and again two months after training. Results: Caregivers reported that OVC experienced significant mental health improvements including reduction and healing of trauma, improved coping, increased self-confidence, increased hope and happiness, reduced mood-swings and depression, improved learning and communication, and improved relations with care workers and others. Conclusions: Aerobic laughter based PSS programs can be rolled out quickly and effectively and can result in significant healing, and improved mental health and development of OVC in care without the need for mental health professionals.

Learning Areas:
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related education
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Discuss the impact of aerobic laughter therapy PSS programs on OVC from AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. Assess whether aerobic laughter therapy PSS programs may be helpful in other child care situations.

Keywords: Child and Adolescent Mental Health, Home Visiting

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a senior technical advisor for health systems strengthening including improving health workforce retention and effectiveness. Among my scientific interests has been the design, testing and evaluating of programs to improve the well-being of health care workers.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.