Journal of Mental Health and Human Behaviour

SHORT COMMUNICATION
Year
: 2020  |  Volume : 25  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 69--70

Strengthening risk communication to avert stigma and discrimination in the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic


Saurabh RamBihariLal Shrivastava1, Prateek Saurabh Shrivastava2,  
1 Department of Community Medicine, Medical Education Unit and Institute Research Council, Shri Sathya Sai Medical College and Research Institute, Sri Balaji Vidyapeeth – Deemed to be University, Kancheepuram, Tamil Nadu, India
2 Department of Community Medicine, Shri Sathya Sai Medical College and Research Institute, Sri Balaji Vidyapeeth – Deemed to be University, Kancheepuram, Tamil Nadu, India

Correspondence Address:
Saurabh RamBihariLal Shrivastava
Professor, Department of Community Medicine, Shri Sathya Sai Medical College and Research Institute, Sri Balaji Vidyapeeth – Deemed to be University, Tiruporur - Guduvancherry Main Road, Ammapettai, Nellikuppam, Chengalpet - 603 108, Kancheepuram, Tamil Nadu
India

Abstract

The Corona Virus Disease-2019 (COVID-19) outbreak continues to be a public health emergency of international concern owing to its rise in the caseload, case fatality rates and the emergence of the cases in different nations other than China. Amidst all the happenings and the global threat, it is a must to ensure that we strengthen our risk communication and community engagement activities to avert any kinds of social stigma and discrimination towards the affected individuals. The emergence of stigma will overcomplicate the already complex problem and significantly affect the efforts to prevent the ongoing transmission, contact tracing and successful containment of the infection. In order to avoid these impending consequences, the need of the hour is to formulate community-based guides, organize global campaigns, strengthen risk communication activities, and improve the trust of people on health systems and by showing empathy & compassion towards the affected individuals. In conclusion, the road to fight the COVID-19 infection is an uphill task and we cannot succeed in the same without the participation and solidarity from the community. Thus, it is of utmost important to strengthen our risk communication without giving any scope to the emergence of stigma and discrimination.



How to cite this article:
Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS. Strengthening risk communication to avert stigma and discrimination in the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.J Mental Health Hum Behav 2020;25:69-70


How to cite this URL:
Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS. Strengthening risk communication to avert stigma and discrimination in the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. J Mental Health Hum Behav [serial online] 2020 [cited 2022 Sep 28 ];25:69-70
Available from: https://www.jmhhb.org/text.asp?2020/25/1/69/297413


Full Text



 Introduction



The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak continues to be a public health emergency of international concern owing to its rise in the caseload, case fatality rates, and the emergence of the cases in different nations other than China.[1] The global estimates clearly suggest that a cumulative total of 292,142 cases of the disease have been reported across more than 165 nations and territories, with European region accounting for the highest load of cases.[1] In addition, a total of 12,784 deaths have been reported, which amounts to a case fatality rate of 4.67% worldwide.[1] Obviously, these estimates are quite alarming, and efforts are being taken by different national public health authorities to mount a better response against the novel viral infection.[1],[2]

COVID-19 and stigma

Amidst all the happenings and the global threat, it is a must to ensure that we strengthen our risk communication and community engagement activities to avert any kind of social stigma and discrimination toward the affected individuals.[3] Stigma can occur once people negatively attribute the current novel infection with a defined population group and start labeling or stereotyping or separating or discriminating them merely because they are affected by the disease.[4] This will impact the family members, caregivers, health personnel, communities, and all those who are in contact with the virus due to any reason.[3] In fact, if such behaviors are encouraged, it won't be a distant reality that the affected individuals will start to hide their symptoms, not approach health-care facilities, and won't even adopt healthy behavior (viz., use of standard cough etiquette and disposal of contaminated fomites) just in order to avoid being discriminated.[4] This will overcomplicate the already complex problem and significantly affect the efforts to prevent the ongoing transmission, contact tracing, and successful containment of the infection.[4] It won't be wrong to put on record that eventually the rate of spread of the virus will further be enhanced and public health authorities will find it extremely hard to control the disease.[2],[3]

Scope of risk communication

In order to avoid these impending consequences, it is necessary to accept that owing to the novel nature of the disease, there will be some form of anxiety and fear among the masses about the disease.[4],[5] This can be effectively tackled by formulating community-based guides, global campaign, strengthening of the risk communication activities, improving the trust of people on health systems, and showing empathy and compassion toward the affected individuals.[3],[4],[5] There is an immense need to improve our risk communication and the manner in which we communicate with the general population so that the possibility of enhancing fear or stigma is ruled out.[2],[3] The first and foremost thing will be to avoid the use of some words (such as suspect and isolation) as it might infer a negative understanding among people and thus aggravate the chances of stigmatization.[4] On the contrary, the health authorities should adopt a “people first” language which not only gives respect, but also empower them with the correct information.[4]

Essential attributes

At the same time, all the involved stakeholders (viz., government, media, health personnel, and general population) should be cautious and wise while communicating on social media and always ensure that no scope is given to fuel discrimination.[3] Our aim should be always to spread the facts, appeal to all sections of society to help in the containment of the infection, and share the experiences of affected people who have recovered from the infection.[3],[4] Moreover, we have to be smart enough to do balanced reporting and as far as possible report that all ethnicities are being affected.[4] In addition, efforts have to be taken to clear the myths and misconceptions prevailing about the disease in the community and clear the same by providing facts.[2]

 Conclusion



In conclusion, the road to fight the COVID 19 infection is an uphill task, and we cannot succeed in the same without the participation and solidarity from the community. Thus, it is of utmost importance to strengthen our risk communication without giving any scope to the emergence of stigma and discrimination

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

References

1World Health Organization. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Report – 62. World Health Organization; 2020. Available from: https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation- reports/20200322-sitrep-62-covid-19.pdf?sfvrsn=f7764c46_2. [Last accessed on 2020 Mar 23].
2World Health Organization. National Capacities Review Tool for a Novel Coronavirus (nCoV). Geneva: WHO Press; 2020. p. 1-5.
3World Health Organization. Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) Readiness and Response to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)-Interim Guidance v2. Geneva: WHO Press; 2020. p. 1-3.
4IFRC, UNICEF, WHO. Social Stigma Associated with COVID-19 – A Guide to Preventing and Addressing Social Stigma. Geneva: WHO Press; 2020. p. 1-4.
5Zhou JQ, Dong W, Xu HL, Cai YM, Sheng DH, Wu FY, et al. Attention should be paid to the exposure risk of patients with chronic wounds on the way to hospital during corona virus disease 2019 epidemic prevention and control. Zhonghua Shao Shang Za Zhi 2020;36:E003.