Complex pandemic information should be conveyed clearly and simply – Dr Amofah

Dr George Amofah, a Public Health specialist, has stressed the need to convey clearly and simply, complex information during pandemic emergencies and outbreaks.

He said outbreaks were frequently marked by uncertainty, confusion and a sense of urgency and that most often communication generally through the media becomes another feature of the situation (outbreaks).

Speaking at a workshop on Effective Risk Communication during pandemics, he said, it was pertinent to communicate with the public in ways that built, maintained or restored trust. The workshop was on the theme: “Developing Tools for Information Exchange at Border Entry Points in Ghana.”

The National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) and GIZ-ReCHT, a German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, organised the workshop for officials of the Custom Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority, Port health officials, Ghana Immigration Service, Freight Forwarders Association, Ghana Civil Aviation among other institutions.

The objective of the workshop was to provide general information about risk communication to all relevant stakeholders, update participants on the potential risks epidemics and pandemics in the country and plan towards design and implementation during pandemics.

Dr Amofah said the challenge for developing countries was increasing deforestation and exposure to new microbes, over burdened health system, ineffective surveillance systems for early detection, confirmation and response, weak human resource among other factors.

The former Deputy Director of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), therefore, called for capacity building in endemic detection, diagnosis and response at all levels, establishment of laboratories facilities for quick diagnosis and confirmation and an effective risk communication strategy as part of the pandemic preparedness plan even before pandemics strikes.

Mr Kofi Portuphy, National Coordinator of the NADMO called for more collaborative effort between GIZ and his outfit to respond effectively to pandemic outbreaks.

“NADMO is collaborating with the Ghana Health Service to combat disasters and to raise the awareness to sensitise people and expressed the hope that the workshop would create the needed awareness,” he said.

He was of the view that most pandemics experienced by the country often had a massive communication challenge and urged participants to disseminate clear, concise and timely information to the public.

Dr. Holger Till, team leader of GIZ-ReCHT noted that though Ghana had addressed risk communication in its national pandemic plan and further developed a communication strategy plan for H1N1 Pandemic 2009, there was the need for the country to adequately prepare as the danger of newly emerging infectious diseases remained a constant imminent risk.

He said poor and misinformation communication in past pandemics such as H1N1 vaccination had scared the public, saying “an effective risk communication tool is needed during pandemics.”

According to him, risk communication built trust and increased compliance and recommended policies and behaviours in cases of crisis, adding that the public needed to know about the characteristics of emerging epidemics and rational for certain recommended behaviours.

Alhaji Abu Sufyan of the Health Promotion Department of the GHS, said right communication was most essential since they conveyed the right information to target audience and in a timely manner for significant impact.

He recommended that in times of pandemic the best practices in risk communication should be early announcement, trust and transparency to reduce public panic.

Source: GNA

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