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Avian influenza

Communication strategies

© UNICEF/2006
Hideaki Kobayashi, Japan's Ambassador to Thailand, talks to young drama performers at the launch of a national Avian Influenza awareness campaign at the Ministry of Education in Bangkok.

Effective communication informs and empowers people to respond appropriately to a crisis.

UNICEF’s role in the preventing and controlling avian influenza and pandemic preparedness are part of a coherent UN system response. UNICEF is harnessing its extensive on-the-ground networks to deliver critical life-saving messages to arm families with the knowledge and practices they need to protect themselves and their birds from avian influenza and to be ready to respond to the emergence of a pandemic. UNICEF’s strengths in communication and social mobilization, and its capacity for action at community level are the assets we bring to this concerted UN operation.

UNICEF is working closely with governments, UN organizations and other partners to develop behaviour change strategies and prototype materials for communication at household level, with a specific focus on back-yard poultry farmers, community influencers and children. These strategies and materials — based on technical recommendations of WHO, FAO, and OIE — are being adapted and used across different regions.

Outbreak and behaviour change communication

People are becoming infected because they do not know how to protect themselves and how to avoid behaviours that are unsafe. The importance of public information support to induce behaviour change and reduce risks of ill-health in animals and humans is increasingly recognized in both national and international avian and human influenza programmes.

An effective communication strategy requires two types of responses: (1) outbreak/risk communication that focuses on how authorities responsible for animal and human health assist in mobilizing the media and other channels to provide communities with timely and accurate information, and (2) behaviour change communication that focuses on how individuals, communities and institutions can reduce risks through changed or modified behaviour. Advocacy with national and sub-national government counterparts underpins the success of behaviour change and outbreak communication, as both strategies remain the responsibility of the government authorities.

Report, Cook, Separate, Wash
In March 2006, communicators from WHO, FAO and UNICEF met to discuss behavioural outcomes and measurement indicators to guide communication for behaviour change for preventing bird-to-bird, bird-to-animal, and bird to human transmission at the community level. Four behaviours were prioritized: Report, Cook, Separate, Wash. These key behaviours form the basis of avian influenza communication strategies being implemented by most governments worldwide, but there is concern that for many poor communities they are difficult to put into practice.

Pandemic preparedness, including preparations for communicating during a pandemic, calls for a distinctly different set of interventions and approaches. In December 2006, WHO and UNICEF developed suggested behaviors for pandemic preparedness (Flu-WISE) and pandemic recovery (Flu-CARE) that individuals would need to engage in to protect themselves and their families and community. UNICEF conducted research in over 20 countries to ascertain audience knowledge, attitudes and behaviours for evidence-based planning and implementation of behaviour change strategies. Governments are now being encouraged to focus their communication strategies on these behavioral outcomes in the eventuality of an influenza pandemic.

Challenges remain
In countries that have used communication campaigns and other efforts to raise awareness about the threats posed by avian influenza and a possible pandemic, there is a higher knowledge among the community of behaviours that can reduce risk. However, this awareness is not uniform and where it exists, it is not always translated into behaviour change. Perceptions of risk, poverty, difficult living conditions, poor access to resources and deep-rooted cultural practices living conditions are some of the factors that prevent people from practicing safe behaviours. Thus communitcation strategies must continually adjust and adapt their messages and approach to the specific situation and population.




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Behaviours to Reduce the Risk of Avian Influenza

Report - Separate - Wash - Cook

WHO/FAO/UNICEF Recommendations, March 2006 [PDF]

Behaviours Now and During a Pandemic

Wash - Inform - Stay Apart - Etiquette

Care - Assess - Rest - Evaluate

WHO/UNICEF Recommendations, December 2006 [PDF]

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