Creating Strategies to Reduce Exposure Risk and Mitigating Anxiety

June 25, 2020
COVID-19 Prevention Checklist


From May 18th to June 16th, Dr. Chris Dickey taught a virtual, online version of his course  Behavioral Communication Strategies for Global Epidemics, that was adapted to focus on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in partnership with Strathmore University in Nairobi. The course welcomed close to 60 participants, including NYU MPH students and professionals working in UN Agencies, Ministries of Health, county health systems, and hospitals throughout East and Southern Africa. The ultimate goal of the course was for teams to work together and employ systems thinking to develop proposals aimed at reducing exposure risk and mitigating anxiety that has taken hold of communities all over the world. The highly interactive course engaged leading experts that are directly involved in the COVID-19 response from NYU GPH (Drs. David Abramson, Joyce Moon-Howard, Carlos Chirinos, and Mari Armstrong-Hough), UNICEF, WHO, Anthrologica, M&D Consulting, Common Thread and Strathmore University.

The participants worked together on teams - guided by GPH and Strathmore University mentors -  to develop complex models of the rapidly growing pandemic in the context of geography, culture, economics, epidemiology, human physiology, environmental science, and policy. Through a combination of traditional online modules and highly interactive, virtual “live” sessions,  the class discussed how social and cultural practices, processes, and interactions shape the population distribution of the disease and produce social inequalities that impact disease control and primary prevention. Additionally, the course addressed public health communication, covering risk management and perception, health literacy, and community engagement. Participants ended the course with a foundation of  theoretical, operational, and methodological parameters needed to communicate and change behaviors to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

At the conclusion of the course, each of the 12 teams prepared a presentation of their respective strategies that were shared with a panel of esteemed judges, which included Dr. Cheryl Healton (Dean, NYU GPH), Simon Bland (CEO, GLIDE), Alan Court (Senior Advisor to the WHO Ambassador for Global Strategy), Natalie Fol (UNICEF Regional Advisor C4D ESARO), and Dr. Dalia Samhouri (WHO EMRO). After reviewing the final proposals, the judges identified two winning teams that stood out among the rest. One team, featuring an NYU SDG MPH student, Leckson Mukavhi, focused its intervention on reducing misinformation among people living with HIV in Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Kenya. The other winning team, featuring another SDG MPH student, Edward Galiwango, focused on improving the rate of facility-based childbirth in light of COVID-19. Both strategies were targeted, realistic, innovative and incorporated risk communication and community engagement best practices.


Virtual class presentation

CAPTION: Peggy Hanna (Consultant, WHO), Rania Elessawi (UNICEF C4D) and Dr. Joyce Moon-Howard (Director of Undergraduate Programs, Clinical Associate Professor of Community Health Science and Practice), leading a session on Risk Communication and Community Engagement.


Team 7’s winning intervention

CAPTION: Team 7’s winning intervention, titled “COVID-19 and HIV Social Behavior Change Communication Strategy: Misinformation among People Living with HIV”. Group members included: Leckson Mukavhi (NYU SDG MPH student), Nahom Solomon (School of Public Health, College of Health Sciences, Addis Ababa University), Kalkidan Solomon (School of Public Health, College of Health Sciences, Addis Ababa University) & Rosemary Kamanu (Associate Director Operations & Finance University of Nairobi CRISSP & COEHM projects)


Team 8’s winning intervention

CAPTION: Team 8’s winning intervention, titled “ Communication Strategy for Improving Health Facility Delivery in Muranga County - Kenya During COVID-19 Pandemic”. Group members included: Edward Galiwango (NYU SDG MPH Student), Bisrat Tewelde (Mekelle University, Ethiopia), Charles Okemwa (CEO, Malkin Hospital, Muranga County, Kenya), Danson Mwendia (Health Promotion Officer, Muranga County, Kenya) & Theophilus Towett (Director of Bethesda Healthcare, Nandi County, Kenya)