A clear and integrated Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) strategy and response is vital for community uptake of essential public health and biomedical interventions to prevent and control the spread of disease. This strategy ensures dialogue and participation of all stakeholders and affected communities during preparedness, readiness and response.
The importance of dedicated attention to RCCE in a response has been illustrated in the past experience of many infectious disease outbreaks, the Ebola outbreaks in the last decade being the most recent.
Infectious diseases respect no borders, and viruses don’t discriminate on host populations. At the same time, at risk and affected people need to be part of the solution to their own problems. Hence, communities are a full and fair shareholder in the preparedness and response, working closely with the medical community, health workers and others in the implementation of protective measures and the improvement of health seeking behaviors.
It is crucial for the response to understand the local factors that may act as barriers for the uptake of public health services. Often, responses look only at the negative aspects, failing to identify, learn, consider and map local capacities to work together to reduce barriers to the uptake of public health measures. Certain behaviour and practices changes might require logistic and material support. For instance, for people to adopt proper hand washing demands the availability of water and soap for it realization.
The COVID-19 outbreak and response has been accompanied by an “infodemic:”an overabundance of information from various sources— some accurate and some not — that makes it hard for people to decide which is a trustworthy source of information.
The onus on Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) pillar of the response for COVID-19 lies with each country[SS2] facing the threat of the disease. All countries are at risk and need to prepare for and respond to COVID-19. This strategy follows the categorization of countries described by WHO for COVID-19. Controlling this outbreak will require a multisectoral response with RCCE central to localizing and connecting the response actions at the regional and global levels with the realities of communities.