On 29 April 2021, Work Package 2 of the SHARP Joint Action held a webinar exploring the themes and key strategy areas set out in the WHO EU COVID-19 Fatigue framework.

The event was attended by over 60 participants from across the EU and neighbouring countries with a strong mix of epidemiologists, public health practitioners and communications professionals. The session included presentations from framework co-author Katrine Bach Habersaat and partner countries who explored the different ways they had delivered on each of the key strategy areas.

“Coming together to share ideas and best practice is such an important part of improving preparedness and response planning and it was great to see such a wealth of inspiration and indeed a level of innovation in approaches to a truly modern pandemic of the digital age“, says Huw Cook, the webinar organiser and host from Public Health Wales.

“It was clear from the presentations and conversations that existing inequalities have been brought to the forefront by the pandemic. This was a great opportunity to discuss more equitable approaches to risk communication that can help close the health gap”, Cook continues.

Opening the session Bach Habersaat introduced the emerging evidence around COVID-19 fatigue and explained why the framework was created and why it is important that countries incorporate these approaches into their risk communication planning.

This was followed by a series of short topical presentations and discussions that explored practical applications of the key strategy areas set out in the framework, including:

  • 5 Cross cutting principles
  • Understanding and engaging people
  • Enabling people to live their lives while reducing risks
  • Acknowledging hardships and barriers

You can watch Haberstaat’s presentation on YouTube.

Presenters and their topics

Leah Morantz is Head of Communications and Stakeholder engagement at Public Health Wales.

Morantz explored how the team at Public Health Wales had enshrined the 5 cross-cutting principles from the framework  across their pandemic response work; placing  a particular emphasis on the benefits of this approach after a year of COVID-19 Communications. 

“When we show transparency and seek two-way communication, we bring people into the conversation. We aim to be consistent, accurate, timely, and coordinated in our communications. This helps us build a level of trust with the public we serve and is central to keeping stakeholders on our side. Working this way, with partners across multiple sectors, helps keep everyone safe.”

Leah Morantz, Chart.PR MCIPR, Head of Communications and Engagement, Public Health Wales

You can watch Morantz’s presentation on YouTube.

Anna-Leena Lohiniva is a cultural anthropologist and public health professional at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare.

Lohiniva discussed the impact of data analysis around public perceptions and how it can be used to tailor approaches to COVID-19 fatigue and risk communications in the broader sense.

“Data collection and analysis has allowed us to gain a clearer understanding of pandemic related risk perceptions. This in turn has allowed us to tailor the way we communicate and address the needs identified.”

Anna-Leena Lohiniva, Senior Specialist, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare

You can watch Lohiniva’s presentation on YouTube.

Dr Tanya Melillo is a Public Health consultant heading the infectious disease prevention and control unit in Malta for 13.5 years. Charmaine Zahra is a Specialist Trainee in Public Health Medicine at the Ministry for Health, Malta.

Together they explored how making the most of every engagement opportunity had helped identify the barriers faced by people across Malta. During the presentation and subsequent questions they explained how insights gathered from contact tracing calls helped inform signposting to the relevant support services particularly for vulnerable population groups.

“COVID-19 not only affected the health of patients but also disrupted their lives causing many hardships. As health care professionals, it was our duty to help them not only with their medical conditions but to ease their hardships while in quarantine.”

Dr Tanya Melillo MD, Msc, PhD, Public Health Consultant heading the infectious disease prevention and control unit, Ministry of Health, Malta

“Several policies and measures were implemented during this COVID-19 pandemic with the aim to protect the population. This has impacted specific groups of people, affecting some more than others. Support systems need to be in place to help those struggling and show them that they are valued no matter their background or culture.”

Charmaine Zahra, MD, MsC, Specialist Trainee in Public Health Medicine, Ministry of Health, Malta

You can watch Melillo and Zahra’s presentation on YouTube.

Huw Cook is a Communications Officer at Public Health Wales.

During Cook’s presentation he talked through an example of how Public Health Wales had worked in partnership to promote a Safe Ramadan in Wales. He detailed the decision making process, how partners were identified and what new approaches had enhanced the coproduction process.

“Collaboration, innovation and community have been key to ensuring some of our most at risk groups have been able to live their lives in the safest way possible. Stakeholder engagement has allowed us to change our approaches, work in new ways and have a bigger impact at that local level.”

Huw Cook, Communications Officer SHARP JA / Stakeholder Engagement Public Health Wales

You can watch Cook’s presentation including the final plenary session on YouTube.

Any ideas of suggestions for future risk communications webinars from SHARP Joint Action? Please don’t hesitate get in touch at sharp@thl.fi 

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