As the number of infected persons with COVID-19 surge daily amidst the reality of community transmissions in Kenya, the country is confronted with the fear of hospitals and health facilities getting overstretched in managing the ever-increasing numbers of affected patients. The only alternative left, experts say, is home-based care, especially for the asymptomatic cases.
For home-based care to be successful, key measures have to be put in place, chief among them the sensitization and education of home-based caregivers, community health volunteers, and the general public. Equally important is more deliberate efforts towards de-stigmatization of COVID-19 across the country, and ensuring sensitization materials are adapted to fit the various diverse demographics, domesticating them into various social contexts.
To make this a reality, the Ministry of Health (MOH) is partnering with the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) through the School of Communication and Development Studies (SCDS), and the Africa Centre for Social Change Health and Development, to develop print and audio-visual publicity and educational materials which will serve as guidelines for local and county health teams in supporting households care for family members not requiring hospitalization.
These efforts are led by the Dean School of Communications, Prof. Hellen Mberia, and adds to an already existing partnership between the University and the Ministry of Health; a multi-disciplinary team of experts drawn from the College of Health Sciences (COHES) and College of Pure and Applied Sciences (COPAS).
The team, which has been working under the National COVID-19 Modelling Consortium and the National Emergency Response Committee, will now be working as a unit with the Communications team to offer a united technical support and capacity building to the national fight against the Coronavirus pandemic.
In one of the recent meetings with the JKUAT team on July 23, 2020, the communications team presented the initial booklets on home-based care protocols to the Ministry of Health for perusal and adoption. Speaking at the meeting, Dr. Salim Hussein who heads the Primary Healthcare Department at the Ministry, posited that the partnership was timely since despite best efforts, COVID-19 stigmatization still remains a stark reality across the country, and considering that most of the Kenyan cases are asymptomatic.
“I believe that a partnership with academia will be key in helping us unlock some key milestones, especially when it comes to tackling perception change. On our part we shall see to the proper activation of primary healthcare networks to make home-based care a reality,” he added.
On her part, Prof. Mberia asserted that their approach would be premised on communication for behavior change principles and coming up with materials that will aid in stigma mitigation.
“In everything we’ll be doing going forward, we have to put into place best Health Communication practices in order to successfully shape public opinion positively especially at the community level, and make the fight against COVID-19 a collective effort while shunning stigmatization,” she concluded.
Those present during the meeting were the Dean School of Public Health, Prof. Simon Karanja, Prof. Fred Wamunyokoli from the School of Biomechanical Sciences, Dr. Jane Aduda from the School of Mathematical Sciences, and Ms. Mercy Wahome from the Africa Centre for Social Change Health and Development, among others.