Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Nigeria, Senegal Prove Power of Tailored Messaging

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Nigeria, Senegal Prove Power of Tailored Messaging

Article excerpt

The more we learn about Ebola, the more it is becoming apparent that overcoming the psychosocial reactions to this deadly virus comes down to one word: education.

Education that is tailored to the audience has been most successful, as has maintaining a focus on the psychosocial impact of the disease on patients (here and abroad), their families, and their health care workers. Take the case of Nigeria, which the World Health Organization (WHO) declared free of Ebola virus transmission on Oct. 20.

Nigeria used contact tracing to physically monitor all identified patients and their contacts daily for 21 days. In addition to allocating government funds and disbursing that money quickly, the private sector reportedly contributed resources aimed at scaling up control measures.

Perhaps most importantly, according to the WHO, "house-to-house information campaigns and messages on local radio stations, in local dialects, were used to explain the level of risk, effective personal preventive measures, and the actions being taken for control. The full range of media opportunities was exploited--from social media to televised facts about the disease delivered by well-known 'Nollywood' movie stars."

Just a few days before issuing the declaration on Nigeria, WHO announced that Senegal also had ended transmission of the virus.

I cannot overemphasize the importance of tailoring our educational messages about the virus to specific audiences. The sort of information needed to help allay the anxiety of an administrative assistant who asks, "Why didn't the vaccine those nurses took before treating the patient work?") is different from the information required of a front-line nurse at a public sector hospital, who might ask "Will our gowns protect us if we have a patient?" or a hospitalist at a tertiary care pediatrics hospital who might wonder "Is our isolation unit appropriate for treating this disorder?"

Regarding the disease's potential victims--patients, family, health care workers we should be mindful of the psychosocial impact that even the possibility of contact with the virus has.

Potential contacts with the virus face destruction of all of their belongings, an inability to work while bills mount, and even the stress of the unwelcome spotlight. …

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