Using Social Media to Communicate Facts about Zika

Bridgetown, Barbados.  Recent outbreaks of Zika and Chikungunya in the Caribbean region have highlighted the need to effectively share information with visitors and residents about vector-borne diseases and other epidemics in order to prevent and respond in a timely manner.


Noting this critical need, Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), in collaboration with the U.S. Embassy Bridgetown hosted a 2-day Zika TechCamp.  More than 50 representatives from regional Ministries of Health, organisations, private sector, and media houses attended the training at the Hilton Barbados to discuss and learn how to apply technology solutions to communicate about public health.


“CARPHA recognizes the importance of using mobile and new technologies in our health promotion and education strategies.  The Agency sees the Zika TechCamp as an excellent avenue for public health personnel, NGO and persons who are engaged in the dissemination of information on Zika and other health concerns to learn how to better leverage social and new media,” stated Dr Karen Polson-Edwards, Assistant Director, Surveillance, Disease Prevention and Control at CARPHA. 


Her Excellency, Linda S. Taglialatela, United States of America Ambassador to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean, and the OECS, stressed the United States Government’s commitment to fostering a strong and healthy economy in the Caribbean, which can only be achieved if its people are healthy and productive.   She said, “This ground breaking and new approach to public health will leverage the power of social media in a region with high mobile and internet penetration rates to influence traditional media in communities with limited access to information.”


The workshop sought to enhance digital literacy for public health professionals and build regional capacity to use digital media and strategies to improve public health communication about Zika and other epidemics.  Participants were provided with practical strategies on how to interact, increase engagement, and improve reach within their communities using social media tools.  Group exercises included using Facebook and Twitter to engage audiences; developing scripts for digital stories; and building a social media strategy.

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