PRESS RELEASE – Over one hundred (100) participants from twenty three (23) participated in a Caribbean Sub-Regional Training Workshop on Emergency Risk Communication at the Crane Hotel in Barbados from the 4th – 6th November 2014.
Participants came from Bahamas in the North to Suriname in the South of the Caribbean. Participating from St. Lucia were, Dr. Merlene Fredericks, Chief Medical Officer, Mr. Nahum Jn Baptiste, National Epidemiologist, Mrs. Natasha Lloyd Felix, Director of the Bureau of Health Education and Mr. Glen Simon, Information Officer attached to the Ministry of Health.
The workshop was organized by the World Health Organization (WHO) in collaboration with the Pan-American Health Organization with the aim of training regional health professionals to effectively manage the implement emergency risk communication strategies and programmes to handle any health related threat.
Lead facilitator at the workshop was, Dr. Gaya M. Gamhewage, Risk Communications Expert with the Department of Communications at the World Health Organization (WHO).
She spoke of her recent experience of working in Nigeria during the Ebola outbreak earlier this year, the successes and challenges of such an operation as well as the effectiveness of risk communication to effect positive behavior outcomes.
Workshop sessions focused on the development of a Single Overarching Communications Outcome (SOCO) and getting to your point quickly during a crisis situation.
Dr. Gaya also focused on identifying a spokesperson during a crisis and that a fundamental skill a good communicator should possess is a clear understanding of the change they want to see regardless of what they say or how they it.
She also focused on how to identify the audience and how the audience pays attention to the messages with a view to better understand how people hear, take notice, remember and even change their behavior.
Workshop participant Nahum Jn Baptiste spoke about the three (3) main things he has taken away from this workshop. “Before you can communicate anything you need to have some sort of outcome first of all, present that format and then you can move to other things.
Another thing is when you are in crisis persons are in panic and persons need information and so risk communication is something which I think we have overlooked over the years and that workshop is showing us that in managing any crisis whether it’s Chikungunya, Ebola or any Epidemic we would also have to put in place a risk communication plan and try to allay the fears of persons.
The other thing I learned is trust. Trust is very important in terms of communicating and we had the experience with Chikungunya where persons no longer believe that it was the mosquito that was spreading the virus as well as with Ebola where persons seem now not to believe that the virus in not spread during the incubation period.
So this was very timely in helping us in being able to manage that type of situation so that persons can absorb the information and be motivated to change more positively that we can quicker bring any crisis under control.”
Workshop participants expressed their satisfaction with the workshop content and the professional and expert guidance of the facilitators in delivering the Risk Communications Workshop.