WHO publishes new guidelines on HIV, hepatitis and STIs (3) The Role of Social and Behavior Change in Public Health Emergencies

9 August, 2022

A few days ago HIFA posted WHO guidance on HIV, viral hepatitis and STIs, which stated that 'behavioural interventions aimed at changing behaviours – which tend to be prioritized in many settings – have no impact on incidence of HIV, viral hepatitis and STIs or on behaviour change'. I noted, controversially, that 'a focus on changing behaviour is potentially disempowering and can be misplaced'. https://www.hifa.org/dgroups-rss/who-publishes-new-guidelines-hiv-hepati...

This new paper from Global Health: Science and Practice takes a contradictory view, arguing that 'influencing human behavior is often the first line of defense to slow disease transmissions'. Below are the citation and key messages. What can we learn from these opposing perspectives?

CITATION: Learning From the Past: The Role of Social and Behavior Change Programming in Public Health Emergencies

Martha Silva, Paula Tallman, Jeni Stolow, Rachel Yavinsky, Julia Fleckman and Kamden Hoffmann

Global Health: Science and Practice August 2022, https://doi.org/10.9745/GHSP-D-22-00026


- The prevalence of emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) is rising at an unprecedented rate, and influencing human behavior is often the first line of defense to slow disease transmissions.

- We synthesize the contributions that social and behavior change research and programming has made in 6 recent EIDs that reached epidemic proportions: HIV, severe acute respiratory syndrome, Middle East respiratory syndrome, Zika virus, Ebola virus disease, and coronavirus disease.

- Analysis of successful and unsuccessful responses to EID outbreaks suggests 5 primary lessons learned that can be used by SBC experts in future EID responses: engage communities, build trust through transparent risk communication, segment audiences for tailored interventions, prioritize behaviors, and cultivate political will and commitment.

- Incorporating SBC experts into EID responses can reduce mortality and improve efficiency in such precarious and time-sensitive settings.

Best wishes, Neil

Neil Pakenham-Walsh, Global Coordinator HIFA, www.hifa.org neil@hifa.org

Working in official relations with WHO