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Introduction to Health Communications and Behavior Change

In this video, Humayra Binte Anwar introduces the basic concepts for designing health communications. (Step 4.5)
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HUMARYA BINTE ANWAR: So now I would like to give you a lecture regarding health communication and behavior change. Before starting, let’s have a warm-up session. Let me begin with asking you a very simple question that, did you brush your teeth in this morning? If, yes, why did you do that? Have you done any literature review to know about the positive signs of brushing teeth? Well, I guess you didn’t, because it has become a habit to you. And the credit goes to the effective health communication from the dentist and toothpaste production factories. But how many of us know that we should wash the hands more than 10 times a day and it includes 11 steps?
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Well, it’s only because the message was not effectively conveyed. And it couldn’t turn into a routine practice, like teethbrushing. But even knowledge is not always sufficient for behavior change. In fact, studies have shown that even doctors who know about the importance of handwashing don’t do it either. In early days, health communication was more related to only health education, but now it has shifted towards behavior and social change. This growth was stimulated by the AIDS epidemic starting in 1985 when there was no antiretroviral treatment and the only option was social and behavior change.
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Therefore, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has come up with a definition of health communication that it is a study and use of communication strategies to inform and influence individual decisions that enhance health. Health communications strategies allow all types of health staffs, health educators, nonprofits, government agencies, and others to disseminate information that can positively influence personal and community health behaviors and choices. So why do we need health communication? It’s to mobilize the community, implementing health programs, and to coordinate with the different stakeholders and finally, to create behavior change. Now let’s discuss about the communications strategy for polio eradication.
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The eradication of polio depends on the success of our health workers in the field, where they interact with the caregivers and convince them for vaccination. The figure shows that the way that the Global Polio Eradication Initiative thinks about how parents make decisions about vaccination. First is the awareness, when the caregiver is aware of polio, the associated risk, the vaccine, campaigns, and health worker visits. Second is the resonance, when the caregiver understands the importance, safety, and efficacy of the vaccine due to effective communication. Third is the consideration, when the caregiver has assessed their beliefs regarding polio vaccination and has developed the intent to vaccinate. Fourth is the health worker contact, which is critical to success.
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Caregivers will be more likely to vaccinate their child if they recognize the health workers as honest and moral individuals. And then if the health worker is successful to convince her caregivers vaccination can be achieved. Sixth is the rapid vaccination loop. Every repeat vaccination is an opportunity for either a new rejection or continued protection. Finally, is the peer-to-peer advocacy, where we want to encourage people to talk with neighbors, relatives, and community members about the dangers of polio, other vaccine preventable diseases, and the importance of vaccination. So how will this change the behavior? There are several behavior change, theories that help us to understand why people act the way they do and why behavior change.
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The theory also guide designing social and behavior communication change programs. In polio eradication, the social-ecological model framework was used, because the model provides guidance for developing successful programs, social environment, emphasizing multiple levels of influence, such as individual, interpersonal, organizational, community, and policy, which is very much critical for such a big program like polio eradication. In the next module of community engagement, we will focus on the organization and policy level. In this module, we are focusing on individual, interpersonal, and community levels only. There are some guiding principle for GPEI communication strategy. We’ll be doing through some strategies for each of these principles, understanding their importance in polio eradication.

Humayra Binte Anwar, BDS, MPH, PhD James P. Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University, Bangladesh

Reflect on the description of vaccine hesitancy in Uttar Pradesh presented in this lecture. Apply the steps of Principle 1 by following the steps outlined on the “Root Cause Identification Tool” on slide 5 of the slide deck and at minute-marker 2:36 of the video to identify some root causes for vaccine hesitancy in Uttar Pradesh.

Post them in the discussion.

Then, proceed to the next activity to review the reading and learn about some strategies that have been applied to overcome vaccine hesitancy.

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