Health officials attend emergency communication workshop

GIS: The Overall Objective was to Enhance the Management of Health Hazards.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness with funding from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) conducted a three-day Emergency Risk Communication Training workshop which convened on Oct. 30.

Health officials and partners from other ministries and agencies were engaged in this capacity building exercise geared at improving communication and social mobilization skills. The overall objective was to enhance the management of health hazards in compliance with international health regulations specifically focusing on disease outbreak management.

Natasha Lloyd-Felix, Director of the Bureau of Health Education said “Saint Lucia as with many of its global counterparts have signed off on the international health regulations and one of the requirements for compliance as a country is that we build risk communication capacity so that in the event of any outbreak and public health threat, be it internal to the country or coming through our ports because it is a global threat or a regional threat that we are able to engage the relevant stakeholders with effective communication that can cause action in a timely manner.”

Meanwhile, PAHO/WHO Senior Advisor on Health Promotion, Social Mobilization and Risk Communication, Dr. Ljubica Latinovic said emergencies may surface with or without warning and so the most fundamental way forward, is to be prepared.

“We do not know what kind of emergencies could come, we can map it because wherever we are we are we know what the threats are but the emergency can be different. Basically we need to prepare, we need to know what to do, and communication is definitely a part of risk management and should be in any organization or institution,” said Dr. Latinovic.

During the three-day training workshop, the participants engaged in realistic but imaginary emergency simulation exercises. The aim of the simulation was to provide participants with a better understanding of the guidelines which currently exist in Saint Lucia, identify gaps and see how best they can be improved.

Risk Communication Consultant Ben Duncan said several repercussions may be encountered if risk communication is not implemented effectively.

“Well if there isn’t effective risk communication then people don’t get the information that they need to protect themselves and their families. That’s the most important thing. If people aren’t protected also the outbreak spreads further, you know people aren’t protecting themselves so more people are getting infected and they infect other people. Another consequence is if the authority doesn’t communicate effectively during emergency then you get misinformation and its damaging for the peoples trust in the health authorities and the government.”

At the end of the emergency risk communication workshop, participants were handed certificates of completion and the knowledge to plan, combat and comply with the ever-changing environment.

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