Workshop on risk communication during public health emergencies

WHO Country Office for India and National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) jointly organized a workshop on risk communication during public health emergencies at Shimla from 14–15 May 2018.

The primary objective of the workshop was to enhance the capacity of key International Health Regulations (2005) and emergency stakeholders in responding effectively to urgent communication during acute public health events through an application of evidence-based principles in the country.

In addition the workshop aimed at drawing attention to the systemic capacities and planning needs to enable effective risk communication during emergencies; using an all-hazard approach and to share experiences of risk communication during recent public health events.

The workshop was inaugurated by Mr J.P. Nadda, Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare, Government of India in the presence of Mr Vipin Singh Parmar, Health Minister, Himachal Pradesh; Mr Vineet Chawdhary, Chief Secretary, Himachal Pradesh; Dr Promila Gupta, Director General Health Services; and Dr Pauline Harvey, Team Lead-National Public Health Surveillance Project, WHO Country Office for India.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Nadda said that prevention and control of disease outbreaks or spread of Public Health Emergency of International Concern in the country needs multi-sector approach. “It is important to identify and quantify the risk, possible channels spread, Standard Operating Procedures for prevention, control and treatment,” he added.

He also urged public health officials to keep communication simple and effective when delivering services as a miscommunication can have significant negative impact on preventive and control strategies.

Mr Vipin Parmar, Health Minister, Himachal Pradesh described the workshop as an important effort and said that the findings from the workshop will prove to be beneficial for not only the state but for the entire country.

Speaking at the workshop, Dr Pauline Harvey said, “We have seen in a number of cases, communication during an emergency can determine the success of a response as also affect the reputation of those managing it.”
“Partnering with the media is vital to health emergency response,” she added.

Dr Henk Bekedam, WHO Representative to India has expressed his appreciation for the efforts undertaken by the NCDC and Ministry of Health & Family Welfare to prioritize risk communication planning and capacity-building as India moves forward in strengthening IHR (2005) capacities at all levels.

The participants received first-hand opportunity to learn from and be trained from the best minds on the key aspects of risk communication during health emergencies, based on the new guidance released by the Organization. The workshop was facilitated by experts from communications and health emergency teams from WHO, Geneva.

The two-day capacity building workshop had an attendance from over 100 people from various ministries and government departments, professional associations and several sectors that need to be ready to respond to health emergencies in India.