After acknowledging panelists following a panel discussion on Communication for Health at the WHO 73rd Western Pacific Region Committee Meeting this week, Health Minister Hon. Dr. Culwick Togamana described the need for deeper understanding of target audiences and strengthened cooperation with them as critically important.
“Chair there are many lessons learned during our COVID-19 preparedness and response and one which I’d like to share with us involves an encounter by our health promotion team with a faith based group when conducting awareness on COVID vaccines. Concerns and questions raised around the COVID-19 vaccines were not health related including that the vaccines were the biblical mark of the beast. Obviously, our team found it very difficult to provide a response since the appropriate response is outside the realm of health”,
“In 2014, our health promotion department also conducted a small focus group discussion study in a region in one of our provinces. Amongst many other findings, one stood out whereby fathers choose to fish rather than taking their children to a nearby clinic for routine immunization. A glimpse of what people and families prioritize and value”, outlined Dr Togamana.
He explained that the two examples points to the need for a deeper understanding of target audiences to guide the development of health communication strategies and its implementation including the need to broaden partnerships for combined efforts in the delivery of messages and promotion of health.
Dr Togamana also highlighted that it is evident that not all people value their health and with competing priorities, messaging to promote health must go beyond health, other socioeconomic benefits must also be brought into messaging to trigger health literacy, behavior, and attitude change.
Having outlined this, the Minister then conveyed Solomon Islands’ support towards the WHO-established Communication for Health or C4H approach, which uses theory, practice, and evidence from social and behavioral science to inform the development of communication strategies.
The C4H puts people at the centre, targets particular audiences for specific purposes, and measures outcomes and impacts of communication interventions.
“Chair we truly welcome this approach and will ensure that our health promotional yearly pans capture this for implementation”, said Dr Togamana.