May 22, 2020: Leading healthcare communications firm SPAG organised the second edition of their SPAG Dialogue: The COVID Series on Thursday with experts from the public health sector who shared their views on sustaining public health systems through effective communication and the learnings one can take away from the ongoing pandemic. The event was held in partnership with The George Institute of Global Health, India and Health Issues India.
The panel comprised of Denise Gray-Felder, President CFSC Consortium, Professor Vivekanand Jha, Executive Director, The George Institute of Global Health, India, Anjali Nayyar, Executive Vice President, Global Health Strategies (GHS) and Aman Gupta, Co-founder and Managing Partner, SPAG.
The session began with Prof Jha highlighting the current state of India’s public health systems and the communication around it. He said, “There is a need to build a robust healthcare system in the country. We have had a chaotic messaging, taking the example of hydroxychloroquine and the absence of scientists with public health experts discussing important issues.”
Adding to that, Anjali Nayyar stated, “We haven’t learnt anything from the past. Our communication has to be more consistent and based on science. As long as we stick to science, we’ll be in a good place. Health is not an isolated vertical. There will be economic downturns if a robust healthcare system is not taken seriously.”
The panelists also discussed the learnings from HIV-AIDS and how communication was used during that public health crisis to build awareness and break stigmatisation, which subsequently led to public health stability.
Emphasising on the need for communication to be used effectively, Aman Gupta said, “There is a need to build an improved communications network from a behavioral perspective to put a credible message for people to learn from.”
Denise Gray-Felder added, “Effective communication is never one way. Social response plays a very important role in the health sector, especially while dealing with a pandemic. Moreover, any miscommunication is harmful. It is very important to always push back and question the sources. Any incorrect information must be responded to immediately.”
The webinar ended with a call to action where all the panelists spoke about what is the road ahead. “Public health and its priorities should continue to remain in focus. We need to demystify science and make it simpler for different stakeholders to understand,” concluded Aman Gupta.
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