Publication Date

December 2005

This 18-page workshop report explores how and why communication for behaviour change is vital for preventing, preparing, and responding to a potential avian flu pandemic. The document emerges from a collaborative process: the work of the Avian Influenza IEC (Information, Education, Communication) Working Group, which is in the process of developing a communication campaign in line with the strategy framework of the "Joint Government - UN Programme to fight Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI)." Led by the Vietnam Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development - with support from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) - the AI IEC Working Group is engaging in planning meetings such as the November 29 2005 Hanoi event from which this report was developed.

Specifically, the group is engaged in a collaborative process to identify critical elements for a comprehensive AI IEC and behaviour change framework, as well as to prioritise behavioural objectives ("actions") and key messages for an intensive "Pre-Tet" campaign that will draw on its network of communication staff and alliances at national, provincial and local levels to reach key participant groups in key localities. (The annual lunar festival of Tet has been identified as a critical time for the potential transmission of HPAI given the associated cultural practices of poultry movement, slaughter and consumption.)

In detailing thinking and planning points for "a co-ordinated, consistent media campaign leading up to the Tet festival", meeting participants identified certain action points for intensive promotion (e.g., avoid contact with sick or dead poultry - report contact immediately to the authorities) and facts to be communicated to the public (e.g., your poultry at home could be infected without you knowing). To support behaviour change, participants advanced several creative suggestions for incorporation into a high-impact, entertainment-based media campaign for Tet:

  • "Protect yourself - protect your family" - cook food safely for Tet (featuring a celebrity cooking star)
  • TV game show spot that includes correct and incorrect information, with essential 4 facts about bird flu
  • "Don't give chicken for Tet this year - give soap instead!" (entertainment TV spot)
  • Vietnam football team TV spot - "It's a dirty game but we always clean our hands with soap."

Highlights of particular meeting presentations included in the document suggest the importance of the type of communication in reaching intended participants with key messages - and strategies for ensuring high-quality exchanges. For example, one participant suggested that more consistent outcomes in this proposed campaign could be achieved through government and UN coordination. Furthermore, an effective IEC campaign, Jama Gulaid argues, would require agreement of key messages and consistency in strategies; he emphasises the five C's of communication: Clear, Correct, Consistent, Creative, Coordinated.

A key focus of this report is on the power of the media to communicate key messages; to support that approach, Susan Mackay (Program Communication Officer, UNICEF, Bangkok) describes a regional communication initiative to develop Communication Resources Essentials And Tools (CREATE!) for emergencies. These IEC tools for avian influenza response and pandemic preparedness (which are actively in development as of this meeting) will constitute a CREATE! toolbox including TV and radio spots, posters and leaflets that could be used as a basis for local adaptation in Vietnam. The philosophy of CREATE! is that all tools should:

  • have high impact (e.g., strong visuals)
  • use simple, clear, action-oriented messages
  • draw on participatory development and testing with intended beneficiaries
  • actively avoid creating stigma

The report's appendices feature matrixes for change (for thinking purposes), a list of meeting participants with email addresses (for follow-up communication), and a "Very Preliminary Overview of IEC Initiatives/Activities related to Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza" (for planning purposes).

Click here to access a related peer-reviewed summary on the Health e Communication website, and to participate in peer review.