BRIDGETOWN, Barbados -Twenty-three (23) Member States were represented at the Regional Health Communication Network (RHCN) Meeting hosted by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA). The meeting, which took place from 5- 6 July at the Radisson Hotel in Barbados, was attended by health communicators and health promotion specialists from across the English, French and Dutch Caribbean countries and territories.
During the two-day workshop, participants utilised case studies and simulation exercises to assist in building capacity to respond and develop infodemic management interventions; understand the impact of infodemic management; learn to detect and understand the spread and impact of infodemics. The meeting also provided the opportunity for participants to strengthen their country’s risk communication plans through the development of a framework for infodemic management. Monitoring and evaluation of projects was also part of the training agenda.
Chair of the opening session, Dr. Mark Sami, Director of Corporate Services at CARPHA, welcomed participants stating, “the goal of the meeting is to support the strengthening of risk communication in Member States by focusing on skills needed in infodemic management, which we all would agree is extremely critical given the difficulty that persons faced in finding clear messages and trustworthy sources during the COVID-19 pandemic”.
Dr. Joy St. John, CARPHA Executive Director stated “This year’s focus on infodemic management aims to ensure that people have the right information at the right time in the right format. It is your job to ensure that they are informed, empowered and not overpowered by a tsunami of junk. Your messages have to bring about behavioural changes during epidemics to protect their health and the health of their loved ones and communities”. Dr. St. John urged participants to foster community outreach and engagement. “Let us all remember that the ultimate impact of all the public health efforts we are making is to change the behaviour of the people. The community is our largest partner; therefore, we must go where the people are.”
In his welcome remarks, Wayne Marshall, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health in Barbados said “This focus on infodemic management is still timely, as we need always to be prepared to manage the flow of health-related information in these times of expanded social media and internet use. Infodemic management is imperative in helping to reduce the impact on health behaviour during emergencies. The use of evidence-based analyses and approaches is necessary as we seek to build capacity to manage information and protect the health of our Region. We must be able to engage, empower and listen to our communities”.
Pledging her support, Tina Purnat, Team Lead, Infodemic Management, World Health Organization said “It is a pleasure to see how the investment and the importance of the health communication network in your region is not only in sharing health information in communities, but also sharing experiences and working strategically on building capacity amongst yourselves. There are tools that you will be able to learn over the next two days that I hope will be useful to you. We will be happy to bring your experience and your feedback back into our global network for infodemic management where we discuss and make sure that the tools and assistance amongst members are the best possible”.
The RHCN was established by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in 2015 to develop, implement, sustain, monitor and evaluate communication responses to priority health issues in the Region.
The meeting was funded by the 11th EDF – Regional Health Security Project which is implemented by CARPHA.