The Community-Centered Solution to a Pandemic : Risk Communication and Community Engagement for Co-Production of Knowledge in Health Emergencies and Infodemic Context
Abstract: This research explores how community-centered solutions facilitate the success and ownership of the response actions to deal with a public health emergency, such as the Covid-19 pandemic. When an outbreak or a hazard impacts a group of people, there is a strong need for communication in order to be able to access to the right information that takes people to make the correct decision and thus to take a protective action to be safe. This approach, known as Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE), allows the co-production of knowledge needed for a group of people to remain safe. For this approach, social listening tools, such as media monitoring and community feedback collection are critical understand communities’ needs. Its analysis allows to tailor a RCCE strategy that is able to substantially reduce the threat that a public health emergency poses to human lives. Communities need solutions that are adapted to their needs in order to be able to deal with any emergency, including the Covid-19 pandemic. The RCCE approach empowers communities and provides them with the tools to amplify their voices. This participatory approach allows them to co-produce knowledge and get full ownership of the solutions. Nevertheless, in an environment with excess of information, it may not be easy to discern the truth from the false. Unverified information and rumors are frequent and social media channels facilitate their rapid dissemination without borders. ‘Infodemic’ refers to an excessive amount of information concerning a problem such that the solution is made more difficult. (WHO, 2020) Some rumors may encourage people to take wrong decisions and perform actions that exacerbate risks during an emergency. The RCCE approach helps to promote real-time exchange of information to avoid that rumors and disinformation flourish. (WHO, 2018). It also allows to identify and implement community-centered solutions to communities’ problems. RCCE needs data to monitor and evaluate its activities and reach effectively populations in risk to encourage them to observe the health preventive measures. Lives at risk depends on the right information conveyed through the right channel at the right time. To be able to supply tailored and accurate information to those communities and engage them, evidence-based RCCE strategies are needed, respecting the socio-anthropological and cultural context of the community. This research is based on the findings from five African countries -Cabo Verde, Cameroon, the Gambia, Mozambique and Niger-, all of them seriously affected by current Covid-19 pandemic. Its conclusions help to understand the critical role that RCCE plays in health emergencies resilient recovery.  World Health Organization (WHO) (2020). Risk communication and community engagement (RCCE) readiness and response to the 2019 novel coronaviruses (2019-nCoV): interim guidance, 26 January 2020. Geneva: WHO.  Risk Communication is one of the eight core functions of the International Health Regulations (2005)  World Health Organization (WHO) (2020). Infodemic management: a key component of the COVID-19 global response. Weekly Epidemiological Record 95 (16), 145 - 148. World Health Organization.  World Health Organization (WHO) (2018). Communicating Risk in Public Health Emergencies - A WHO Guideline for Emergency Risk Communication (ERC) policy and practice. Geneva: World Health Organization.
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