As the Caribbean prepares for the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine, communications and health promotion specialists from across the Region came together to hone their risk communication skills, so that they can effectively respond to people’s concerns, opinions, emotions and reactions.
This, as the Regional Health Communication Network (RHCN), comprising of communicators from 26 CARPHA Member States, met virtually and shared their country experiences, risk communication strategies and related policies and interventions implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ms. Carlon Kirton, Communications Manager, Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), explained “Communicators play a key role in public health risk management as we provide vital information and counter misinformation so that our targeted audiences can make informed decisions.” Ms Kirton said “Risk communication and community engagement strategies, along with messaging were essential touch points during the meeting, as regional communicators are currently developing awareness and health promotion campaigns in preparation for the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines in the Caribbean.”
Over three half days – 8th to 10th December – the annual meeting of the RHCN, sought to improve skills in listening, monitoring, analysing and responding to social media as part of “infodemic” management; and facilitated discussions about designing a COVID-19 Vaccine health promotion campaign. CARPHA Executive Director, Dr. Joy St. John pointed out the critical role of communications in “providing policy makers and the public with information needed to make the best possible decisions in a disaster, emergency or crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, which the world is currently experiencing.”
Regional communicators benefitted from presentations from public health experts from CARPHA, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). Participants also had the opportunity to learn from representatives of the CrowdTangle Team at Facebook and Families in Action, Trinidad and Tobago.
The Regional Health Communication Network (RHCN) was established by CARPHA in January, 2015. CARPHA Corporate Services Director, Dr. Mark Sami commended the Network saying “Since its inception, the RHCN has positioned itself as the lead body on public health communications in the Region driving various public health messages for healthy lifestyles in the Caribbean.”