Muppets, Pharmacists, and Journalists All Part of Avian Flu Prevention Campaign

To prevent the spread of avian influenza, staff at the Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for Communication Programs (CCP) began working with partners in over 30 countries to develop culturally relevant behavior change campaigns. One such campaign created for implementation in Egypt utilized a children’s television show to help inform the public about the risk of avian flu. The television show used as part of this campaign was Alam Simsim, the Egyptian version of Sesame Street. The choice to use this show as a primary platform for the campaign was made based on research that showed children as key family messengers, who, after learning something at school or on television, will often pass the newly obtained information on to members of their family. Through Alam Simsim episodes, the campaign team was able to share messages about general hygiene, safe water, and hand washing, equipping children with the skills and knowledge necessary to engage in behaviors that help to prevent the spread of avian flu. In addition to targeting children, the campaign team also developed strategies that would enable them to connect directly with adults. Recognizing that not all adults would have access to phones or television, the campaign team developed prevention brochures that were included as inserts in newspapers and magazines. The campaign also created opportunities for in-person communication through the AskConsult pharmacy network. This network was developed in response to the fact that most people in Egypt go to their pharmacist for health information instead of their doctor. By working with pharmacists and providing them with brochures, posters, and information on avian influenza, the campaign created opportunities for conversations to take place between pharmacists and customers, furthering the spread of key messages and behavior change concepts. Messaging for adults included spotting the symptoms of avian flu in humans and in animals, transmission routes, protective strategies, and how to take the next step, such as knowing who to contact if someone was sick or had sick chickens in their home. An emphasis was also placed on utilizing community program volunteers who hosted meetings in their homes, set up committees to screen houses breeding domestic birds, and closed shops that sold live birds. To measure campaign impact, an evaluation survey was conducted across a representative sample of 1,500 households with adults aged 15 to 49. Seventy percent of the people surveyed said they had adopted at least one protective behavior promoted through the campaign, and over 51% of those surveyed had avoided chickens and birds as a primary change in behavior. 

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