How IREX can help communities respond to COVID-19 or prepare for future pandemics

How IREX can help communities respond to COVID-19 or prepare for future pandemics

 

Photo of a woman writing on a page of notepad paper at a chalkboard.
Data Zetu, sponsored by PEPFAR and MCC, worked with communities across Tanzania to arm stakeholders with the skills and tools to make sense of health data and make evidence-based decisions to improve public health.

 

As the COVID-19 pandemic requires communities to mitigate the virus’s impact, here are ways IREX can provide support to address the current pandemic or prepare for future outbreaks.

Our work in this area draws, in part, upon our experience in Liberia during the Ebola crisis. IREX, supported by USAID, worked with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to produce public education campaigns; mobilized dozens of media organizations to produce jingles, dramas, and skits that highlighted Ebola-related information; and hosted 67 trust-building dialogues between government officials and local communities.

Defending against misinformation on health topics

Misinformation about the pandemic is spreading across social media like wildfire, confusing people about what actions they should take to protect themselves and their families. IREX’s Learn to Discern (L2D) program can help educate citizens on how to identify false information about health issues, seek out credible sources, and empower individuals to call out rumors and falsehoods about COVID-19. At a time when many in-person activities are not possible, L2D can build skills to resist manipulation effectively through online tools, such as Very Verified and The Great Courses, and social media messaging.

Training journalists to cover current and future pandemics responsibly

Most journalists are not public health experts, yet they communicate vital public health information that allows governments to effectively enact policies and encourage behavior change. Drawing on IREX’s long history of training journalists and media organizations, we can design programs that enhance health-related editorial standards; educate journalists on protecting their own health while reporting on or from infected communities; or integrate key public health messages into entertainment programing. With funding from USAID, we've published tips and resources for covering COVID-19.

Leveraging virtual learning in the era of social distancing

Students collaborate via virtual learning

In many countries, classroom instruction, in-person exchanges, and development trainings are not possible for the foreseeable future. With many of these activities forced to go virtual, IREX has many proven methodologies for developing and delivering effective MOOCs as a replacement for in-person instruction by formal educational institutions or development training professionals. IREX also has worked with partners to develop several virtual exchange capabilities.

Building trust between civil society and government/health officials

Many societies harbor historically rooted distrust toward their governments, which undermines the credibility of government spokespeople who must provide vital information during pandemics. IREX can design programs that bring community leaders together with public health officials for trust-building dialogues that help local leaders understand how they can aid in a crisis and help government officials understand what they must do to earn citizen trust.

Training leaders on data-informed public health decisions

Public health crises thrust senior elected officials, who are not health experts, into the position of making dramatic decisions about social distancing, health resource rationing, and protection protocols. Effective decisions must be made based on available health data, which many leaders struggle to synthesize and interpret. IREX’s data-informed decision-making trainings can equip leaders with the skills they need to make informed choices on critical health topics in moments of crisis.

Improving health data systems

Accurate health statistics, and the data flows that enable them, are essential for governments to assess the scale and impact of pandemics and fashion appropriately targeted responses. IREX’s Data Compass is a diagnostic tool that can map data flows for health departments or other government agencies, and provide insights into how to improve data collection and analysis systems to enhance responses to pandemics.  

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