Written by Ijeoma UKAZU

COVID-19: WHO tasks media on risk communication in emergencies

In order to encourage informed decision making and positive behaviour change amongst Nigerians during COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organisation, WHO, has tasked the media on risk communication especially in public health Speaking during a one-day training at Alausa Ikeja, lagos, the focal person for WHO in Lagos state, Dr. Akinola Adeola said that, " for public health emergencies just like COVID-19 pandemic, risk communication is important and it includes the range of communication actions required through the preparedness response and recovery phases in order to encourage informed decision making, positive behaviour change, and the maintenance of trust."

For Risk Communication and Engagement RCCE, Adeola said are essential components of a broader health emergency preparedness and response action, stating that, RCCE key elements plan includes; strategic objectives, key messages, audiences, channels and activities, monitoring and community engagement.

He stated that, the objectives of community re-engagement are to position community health officials as the main, first trusted source of information about COVID-19, to ensure myths are properly acddressed about the pandemic, to inform the community on how the public health response to the virus is being conducted in monitoring, detecting as well as preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Dr. Adeola pointed that, these measures would ensure different groups in the community to increase uptake of public health measures and address barriers to their implementation.

Stating the COVID-19 precautionary measures, he said they still remains; frequent and proper hand washing, maintaining social/physical distancing, practice respiratory hygiene, avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth and disinfecting surfaces and objects.

For effective communication, Adeola charged the media to tailor their communication messages to target the population even when the messages are essentially the same and ensuring such communication channel be trusted by the target population.

Lending her voice, WHO's focal point for Lagos, Dr. Remi Kushimo stated that the perception of risk by experts is explained thus: " the risk is great when the hazard is great and it’s a function of the exposure to that hazard and the vulnerability of the exposed population."

She also said that the public perception of risk is great when there is sense of emotional engagement which includes: fear, anger and outrage.

Dr. Kushimo added that, risk communication can serve to: raise awareness, encourage protective behaviour, inform to build up knowledge and on hazards and risk, inform to promote acceptance of risk, and management measures, inform on how to behave during events, warn of and trigger action to impending and current events, reassure the audience to reduce anxiety and manage outrage.

 

 

She pointed that what Nigerians want during health emergencies are; information on coping mechanism, education on how to protect oneself and family, motivation for self-efficacy as well as confident building.

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