Using communication to fight epidemics

Reblogged from Science on the Net

During epidemics, pandemics, natural or environmental disasters, the problem of communication is one of the primary issues to deal with, and scientists and stakeholders know this well. It is a two-sided issue: communicating risk without creating any alarms, and an effective communication between persons who manage emergencies.

In this sense, many steps forward have been realized and many others are being made. In any case, there is a huge awareness in Europe concerning the need of a better health risk communication. The changing paradigms of public communication during infectious outbreaks are the core of TELLME Project(Transparent communication in Epidemics: Learning Lessons from experience, delivering effective Messages, providing Evidence), a collaborative project co-funded by the European Union’s 7th Framework Programme, which worked on these topics for three years. And on December 4-5, had its final conference hosted in Venice, with the intervention of national and European institutions that took part in the project.

THE PROJECT

TELLME’s main purpose was to develop new protocols for health communication, based on scientific evidence, to be applied when there are infectious disease outbreaks. It combines public health, social sciences, behavioural sciences, political sciences, law, ethics, communication and media. The aim was to develop original communication strategies regarding complicated messages and advice based on uncertainties, also addressing vaccine-resistant groups. Just visiting the project website, we realize that a considerable amount of activities have been done during these three years. Let us try to summarize here the main points that emerged from interventions during the final conference held in Venice, thus representing the lesson taught by TELLME experts.

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The (un)health that surrounds Ebola

Reblogged from Science on the Net

It is known that a virus like Ebola finds an ideal breeding ground of infection in weak healthcare systems. However, the fear of a large-scale European contagion is spreading. Although it is true that Ebola is really frightening, it is equally true that a comparison between a country such as Italy and countries like Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea is at least difficult to maintain. Tuberculosis, Malaria, HIV, low rates of vaccinations: the African ecosystem in which Ebola has developed is crippled, and the majority of its inhabitants are highly exposed to infections. How much crippled? The WHO data describe the incidence of major infectious diseases in the area and of the systems of vaccination.

As we have already pointed out, three out of the four affected nations – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – are among the poorest in the world, with much of the population without a salary. Three countries in which the health expenditure in 2012 has been less than 200 dollars per capita, while a country like Italy has spent 3,040 dollars per capita in the same year.

Moreover, as pointed out on August 5th by James Ball of The Guardian,“Since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak in February, around 300.000 people have died from malaria, while tuberculosis has likely claimed over 600.000 lives. Ebola might have our attention, but it’s not even close to being the biggest problem in Africa right now.”

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