The public health risk communication group is advocating the building of resilient communication and community engagement in response to future pandemics.
Though African countries continue to be plagued with pandemics, the necessary response measures are yet to be fully built.
Chairman of the Public Health Risk Communication and Community Engagement of Practice for Africa, Dr. Dacosta Aboagye, says there is need for the necessary budget to be channeled towards the area for improved response to pandemics.
“I dare say, it would be a huge mistake that at the next pandemic, risk communication pillars in our various countries had not been strengthened. Currently, most countries in Africa do not have risk communication national budget allocations and depend solely on development partners’ support”, he said.
He spoke at a side event of the third Annual International Conference on Public Health in Africa held in Lusaka, Zambia.
Though risk communication and community engagement remain important in public health emergencies, it has received little attention.
Most countries have focused on surveillance, laboratory systems, logistics and cage management to the neglect of deliberate involvement of the community.
Dr. Dacosta Aboagye wants a paradigm shift in preparation for future pandemics.
“In the recent past, most countries during public health emergencies have been focusing on strengthening Surveillance, Laboratory Systems, Logistics and Case Management with minimal focus on tackling issues that touch the hearts of the people in communities. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which took nearly two years and other outbreaks that came after especially Covid-19, taught us a great lesson about the importance of risk communication, particularly engaging and listening to the affected communities”, he said.
He added, “ However, today’s realities in our various countries are that risk communication has not been given full attention, priority and financial commitments are not matched to the community engagement interventions that touch and transform the behaviours of communities and individuals”.
Vaccine hesitancy and low adherence are among challenges militating against the fight of pandemics in Africa.
Dr. Aboagye outlines effective solutions to the challenge.
“Furthermore, during the Kampala gathering, countries presented their unique RCCE experience while responding to multiple outbreaks; and key among the challenges highlighted were low adherence to preventive measures, vaccine hesitancy, inadequate human and financial capacity to execute RCCE activities and lack of RCCE legal framework for the sustainability of the RCCE pillar”, he emphasized.
The Public Health Risk Communication and Community Engagement- Community of Practice for Africa was established by the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Community Engagement and the World Health Organisation Office for Africa.
It is expected to promote best practices and offer a learning platform for effective public health risk communication and community engagement.
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