"A well-coordinated, timely and strategic communication strategy and implementation plan can manage people's expectations during an emergency and assist response efforts. Affected communities can be engaged and supported to make the required changes, rumors can be detected early and barriers to desired behaviors can be identified and addressed promptly."
The purpose of the Social and Behavior Change Communication for Emergency Preparedness Implementation Kit (hereafter referred to as "the I-Kit") from the Health Communication Capacity Collaborative (HC3) is to provide a set of key considerations for SBCC activities in emergency situations such as:
- Outbreaks of diseases - e.g., Ebola, Zika, polio, measles, cholera, avian influenza, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS); and
- Public health problems that follow natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, droughts, hurricanes, and tsunamis – for example, lack of hygiene and sanitation, cholera, measles, and malnutrition.
The premise is that communication is crucial to addressing the behavioural and social aspects of health risks that precede and follow an emergency, and as such must be integrated into the response agenda from the outset. It is critical, HC3 states, to ensure that communication efforts are harmonised, relevant, timely, financially supported and aligned among all of the preparedness technical teams. "A strong and united voice heard through various sources can determine whether an emergency spirals out of control or is brought into check as soon as possible." It is HC3's hope that, by completing the exercises presented in this I-Kit, national governments will be better prepared to manage serious public health events. In completing this I-Kit, users will gain an understanding of the key considerations for an SBCC emergency preparedness plan and the foundation of an SBCC strategy, one of the key documents for an emergency communication response.
Many of these tools are designed for the preparedness phase, but some should be used at the onset of an emergency. For instance, the I-Kit includes tools to assess a community mobilisation response at the community level as the emergency is unfolding. These and other tools can be adapted and included in country-level emergency preparedness plans. The I-Kit is flexible enough to allow for changes as the emergency evolves.
Following details about the I-Kit istelf, the reader can learn about SBCC and emergencies, exploring, for example, communication theories for emergency situations: the Extended Parallel Process Model, the Social Mediated Crisis Communication Model, the Elaboration Likelihood Model, the Theory of Planned Behavior, the Social Cognitive Learning Theory, and Diffusion of Innovations. Emergency SBCC challenges and strategies are outlined. Each of the units that follow includes worksheets: "it is highly recommended that the majority of the worksheets be filled out through a participatory process involving a variety of national and local level stakeholders in emergency health communication. These stakeholders can include some of those identified in the Stakeholder Identification worksheet in Unit 1. PowerPoint presentations containing the content of this I-Kit are available for download." The units include:
- Unit 1: Coordination and Mapping
- Unit 2: Rapid Needs Assessment
- Unit 3: Community Mobilization
- Unit 4: Audience Analysis and Segmentation
- Unit 5: Audience Profiling
- Unit 6: Communication Objectives and Indicators
- Unit 7: Communication Channels
- Unit 8: Message Development
- Unit 9: Monitoring and Evaluation
With guidance such as that provided in this I-Kit, "SBCC ensures that relevant stakeholders from different institutions are identified, understand their roles and can quickly engage together to solve a problem. They ensure that structures among various agencies and feedback loops - from communities to policymakers, managers and service providers - are established in advance to allow for a successful coordination of effort. These and other initiatives can contribute to an overall transformation of health systems, allowing them to function well and respond to emergencies when necessary."
HC3 website, October 4 2016. Image credit: courtesy of Photoshare