Congratulations to Hesperian for making this guide available in Portuguese. I have informed our HIFA-Portuguese members, who have been lamenting the lack of information available in Portuguese (which is so clearly the language that is most needed).

Meanwhile, I learn on BBC news today: ‘More than 220,000 soldiers are being deployed across Brazil to warn people about the risks of the Zika virus… Troops will hand out 4 million leaflets advising people about the risks of the virus, carried by mosquitoes.’

This is a clear recognition that meeting the information needs of citizens is vitally important. But is this the best way to go about it? As we have discussed on HIFA through the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, there are some key learning points that are as applicable to Zika as they are to Ebola:

1. Communication should be multi-channel. The Brazilian Government, WHO and the mass media should be collaborating to provide clean, clear, non-conflicting information for the general public through all media – an emphasis on one medium such as printed leaflets will be relatively ineffective.

2. Reaching people with low literacy is a priority – this cannot be done with leaflets.

3. Communication should be community-based wherever possible, engaging community leaders (municipal, religious, celebrities, and others)

4. The channel of communication should be one that is trusted by the people, and such communication should be done sensitively (are soldiers likely to be trusted by the communities? will they be able to work sensitively?)

5. Communication should not be one-way – it should include the opportunity for people to express concerns, ask questions, and work together to take effective community action (such as elimination of stagnant water where mosquitos breed).

6. Every country should prepare its capacity for mass health education in a public health emergency. This is important in any country, and especially in low and middle income countries where such emergencies are inevitable.

On the last point, it would be interesting to compare the annual public health education budget of the Brazil Government with the cost of deployment of 220,000 soldiers.

I look forward to hear from other HIFA members, especially those who have experience in public health education.

Best wishes,


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