Maria Ordoñez, Margariga Jiménez and Dominga Ortiz, members of WE group “Integrated Development” discuss Zika prevention and action. Photo by Sonia Perez, WE group facilitator, PCI Guatemala
Currently, educational and awareness sessions in WE meetings are taking place to teach members how to take action and disseminate information. They also help PCI staff understand women’s concerns and the barriers they might face in prevention.
Women are learning about Zika transmission and prevention, and the importance of vector control, and what they can do in their households to contribute to their own and their community’s health. As part of the work they do, WE groups identify issues of social concern that they want to further explore in their communities, as well as commitments to action.
A few of the groups have chosen Zika as a social topic that merits further awareness and action. Women are learning about the importance of prevention, and protection of pregnant women, and how cleaner households and communities help prevent mosquito bites.
While most people who are infected report symptoms of mild fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, the possibility for pregnant women to be infected and have their babies suffering from a serious and sometimes deadly birth defect called microcephaly is the biggest concern. Adults and children also can suffer from Guillain Barré syndrome, a rare condition in which a person’s immune system attacks their peripheral nerve resulting in temporary paralysis.
The right communication, engagement and mobilization strategies are based on facts but also seek to understand communities’ perceptions and fears that can affect the decision to act upon knowledge they just learned. Public Health Risk Communication (PHRC) is a strategy that combines these communication functions. It proactively seeks to identify myths and misinformation that affect prevention and access to care, which can also result in stigma and discrimination of those affected.
In a public health emergency, the solutions to the problems rely heavily on the public’s capacity to understand, make sense of the information they are hearing and behave accordingly. Without the communities’ participation and engagement, prevention is very difficult, and access to care gets complicated or delayed.