Findings will enable countries to modify their messages and encourage behavioral changes in the population to prevent the infection and better control the mosquito vector.

Washington, D.C., 12 August 2016 (PAHO/WHO) — Latin American countries are conducting a series of grassroots surveys to identify gaps in knowledge about the Zika virus and modify their messages accordingly to encourage behavioral changes in the population to prevent the infection and control the mosquito vector.

The surveys will be conducted in Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Peru up to September of this year, under the aegis of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) in coordination with the ministries of health and other international partners.

The results of these studies of knowledge, attitudes, and practices, or KAP, will enable countries to modify their communication strategies for the Zika response, along with their messages and the content of their materials. This will foster behavioral changes that will contribute to the elimination of mosquito breeding sites and the adoption of measures to prevent Zika virus infection.

To date, 45 countries and territories in the Americas have confirmed circulation of the Zika virus, which can cause birth defects in babies and other complications. 

These surveys are one of the activities that PAHO is supporting to improve risk communication in the Americas, so that countries can provide timely and transparent information about Zika and its consequences for health, as well as prevention measures. 

Community Action

Active community participation is key to the Zika response, which PAHO/WHO is promoting, along with technical assistance for the development of risk communication strategies and plans.

With the goal of mobilizing the entire region, the Organization is calling on countries to join in the organization of Mosquito Awareness Week, whose slogan is "Together, we'll beat the mosquito!"

The objective during the week is to raise awareness among the population, health workers, the authorities, and other key actors about mosquito-borne diseases and their related risks, fostering greater political will, efforts, and involvement by the countries in mosquito control and encouraging sustainable behavioral changes in the population.

This year, given the outbreak in the Region, the focus will be on the Zika virus. Efforts will be made to strengthen messages for the prevention and control mosquito-borne diseases and to encourage communities to intensify vector elimination efforts and adopt personal protection measures to prevent Zika and other diseases transmitted by the same mosquito, such as dengue and chikungunya.

Mosquito Awareness Week was launched in the Caribbean countries in May, and the goal is to expand it to all of Latin America. Its launch in the Central American countries is scheduled for the week of 22-26 August, and countries such as Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Uruguay are planning to hold it during the last quarter of 2016.

Risk Communication Strategies

As part of the Zika response in the Americas, experts from PAHO/WHO have conducted technical assistance missions to the countries to provide risk communication training to the authorities, institutional communicators and educators, epidemiologists, health service administrators, community leaders, journalists, and academics, among other strategic partners and allies. To date, missions have been sent to Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, the English-speaking Caribbean, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Peru, and Uruguay.

PAHO/WHO supports the ministries of health in identifying internal and external coordination mechanisms to provide timely, transparent, and evidence-based information on the Zika virus. It also helps coordinate and prepare the spokespersons that share this information with the public to ensure transparency and uniform messages about the risks associated with Zika, the elimination of mosquito breeding sites, and how to avoid mosquito bites and prevent sexual transmission of the virus. It trains them, moreover, in how to segment the target audiences for these messages, such as women of childbearing age, pregnant women, and their husbands and partners.

PAHO/WHO continues to provide direct technical cooperation to the countries for the preparation of their strategies and operating plans for risk communication covering potential threats to the health of the population.

Links

— PAHO/Zika

PAHO/Risk communication  

— https://twitter.com/pahowho #Zika #FightAedes