“We can get people informed. Doing the education thing is easy,” says Dr. Everold Hosein. “The real challenge is getting people to act on what they know.“
Teaching health professionals from China and Afghanistan how to do just that – build health communication plans that develop lasting change in people’s behaviour and help fight infectious disease outbreaks – was the challenge Dr. Hosein and JMSC Professor Thomas Abraham faced in an intensive, ten-day workshop held February 7th to 17th at Hong Kong University’s Journalism and Media Studies Centre.
Dr Hosein, a communications consultant to the World Health Organisation and UNICEF, specialises in teaching people how to build and implement health plans using the Communication for Behavioural Impact, or COMBI, approach. This approach is designed to change people’s habits and behaviour, rather than just increase their awareness.
The workshop draws on marketing and communication tools successfully used by large businesses to change consumer behaviour. Dr Hosein takes these approaches and shows participants how to adopt them in their own locations to prevent and manage outbreaks of infectious disease.
These can be simple but vitally important changes like getting people to wash their hands before feeding their children, or making sure that parents complete the full immunisation schedule for their children.
“All the participants end up presenting a COMBI plan that targets change in a very specific behaviour,” he said of the workshops.
Professor Abraham, director of the JMSC’s Public Health Media Programme, coordinated the course and also presented parts of the workshop. He said it was an important step in empowering health workers across Asia to create and implement their own effective health risk communication plans.
“This was the JMSC’s second health risk communication workshop that builds upon the school’s regional strength in health communication and Asian journalism,” he said.
“Most importantly, it gives Asian health workers and policy makers the knowledge and tools to implement plans that will help them be better prepared to prevent and manage infectious disease outbreaks.”