In parallel, we are evaluating our interactive radio approach – a communication intervention and a data gathering channel – for rapid deployment in epidemics and health crises.
In the wake of the 2014-2015 Ebola crisis in West Africa, the challenges of public health communications and data collection during emergencies have been laid bare. Top-down public health messaging is rarely – if ever – effective on its own at changing practices of at-risk populations. Instead, messaging needs to be inclusive, rooted in community beliefs and attitudes and aligned with everyday lives of the target audiences. Furthermore, public health data must be collected, analysed and used to inform policy.
In this context, there is a crucial need to better understand the role of media-based community projects in improving public health outcomes.
Interactive and local language radio forums can be used to disseminate vital information, collect valuable data, and open two-way channels of communication between citizens at risk and public health specialists.
In partnership with Cambridge’s Centre of Governance and Human Rights (CGHR), we are deploying and concurrently evaluating the value-add of integrating ‘real-time’ data with health communication interventions (and subsequent monitoring of efficacy) for future epidemics in African country contexts. With a focus on evaluation, we are conducting a ‘live’ deployment of an interactive radio, SMS, instant messaging and social media project in Cape Verde and Somalia.