Suriname boosts risk communication for Zika and beyond
“Can talking save lives?” This was a discussion topic at a workshop in Suriname that brought together representatives of the health sector and emergency response. The objective was to speed up the development of a risk communication strategy for the country, which notified WHO of its first cases of Zika in November 2015. Suriname was one of the earlier countries to experience the outbreak.
A general health emergency risk communication plan can be put into action for Zika, but will be useful in any health emergency. For this reason, the Ministry of Health and Bureau of Public Health jointly organized the workshop, with support from all levels at WHO (the country office, PAHO and headquarters) and the support of the UN in the country.
As for the importance of talking, participants agreed it was lifesaving, as it was an important way to deliver information on how people can protect themselves from Zika and its possible complications. They also underlined the importance of listening, which is how health authorities can learn what the people’s needs are, and ensure they are delivering the information they want, in the format they prefer.
The workshop was part of a process for developing a wider risk communication strategy, and will continue as a smaller team writes the plan itself.