On November 10th 2016 BBC Media Action held a panel discussion entitled, ”Coming of Age: Communication’s role in powering global health’. The event offered an opportunity to consider why the most effective responses to public health challenges faced by developing countries (such as HIV, Ebola, polio, child mortality) are fiercely debated, yet the vital role of communication has rarely been at the centre of these conversations. The event highlighted key themes from BBC Media Action’s new Policy Briefing: Coming of Age: Communication’s Role in Powering Global Health, and included speakers from UNICEF, WHO, USAID, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Wellcome Trust as well as BBC Media Action.
Communication has been a consistent current running through many major health developments of recent years. And yet, despite the demonstrated promise of communication as a tool for improving public health, not enough has been done to date to capitalise upon its potential, particularly in the poorest parts of the world. Through a careful review of the evidence, this briefing offers a spirited case for why donors, practitioners and developing country governments need to pay more attention to the role of communication in tackling global health.
The briefing finds that:
- Communication has been central to public health developments from Ebola to polio and from HIV to child survival.
- While health policy officials recognise the importance of health communication, it often remains poorly funded, under-utilised and badly planned in public health programmes.
- Even when it does prioritise communication, public health programming often fails to reflect best practice around the role of social and behaviour change communications (SBCC).
- Progress has been stymied by the complexity of social and behaviour change communication, debates around “what counts” as evidence, and the learning and capacity-strengthening gaps within the health communication field.
- Donors should ensure that their staff are familiar with the health communication evidence base and lessons learned from past programmes, so that they are equipped to plan and evaluate proposals for new communication interventions effectively.
Our ‘Sounds of Health’ podcast brings together a range of fantastic contributions from C4D Network members – stories and songs which demonstrate C4D’s key role in the health sector across the world. We travel from the Solomon Islands, with a song on Dengue awareness, to Somaliland, to hear how a midwife receives vital training through medical films. On the way, we meet Mr Plan Plan fighting Ebola, hear about breastfeeding campaigns in Pakistan, and much more. Presented and edited by Rashawn Thompson for the C4D Network.
Click here to listen and download for free!
This practice briefing sets out what BBC Media Action learned in delivering and supporting health communication in response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa in 2014–15. It has a particular focus on Sierra Leone as this was the hub of the organisation’s response.
The paper aims to contribute to a body of knowledge about how to best harness and deploy media and communication in public health emergencies. It also underscores the need for the global community to plan and invest in communication long before any crises take hold, to ensure that communication plays a central role in reducing the impact of future crisis events.
The paper sets out the specific communication challenge posed by Ebola and why it was so difficult to get to grips with this in the early months of the outbreak. It then documents when the health communication response became more useful and explores what that tells us about effective media and communication. Finally, it offers recommendations to ensure that media and communication are used to their full potential during other disease outbreaks or humanitarian crises.
This review examines Translators without Borders’ initiative aimed at improving communication with communities during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa from November 2014 to February 2015. The review captures examples of good practice, gaps and suggestions for improvement in Translators without Borders’ approach to the Ebola response. Among others, the review acknowledges that commitment by humanitarian agencies to address language barriers and information needs was seen during the Ebola crisis. However, more work remains to be done to advocate and raise awareness for the use of local language in humanitarian response. There is a need to change current approaches to ensure that providing information and communication in languages people can understand is considered a priority in humanitarian response.