Africa Soil Health Consortium builds NARO’s capacity in communication material development

Dairy group giving feedback

Authored by: Abigael Mchana, Communication Officer, CABI Kenya

Developing fit-for-purpose, interactive and effective communication materials for farmers and their intermediaries is not an easy task. You cannot create a poster with generic text or images and then distribute it to your audience en-masse. It requires an in-depth analysis of your primary stakeholder, an understanding of your audience’s preferred communication channels and a realistic visualisation of how your intended audience will interact with the finished product.

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Health & Wellness: making a drama out of public health

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A
great
deal of time and effort these days goes into making TV medical dramas both authentic and technically accurate. But it would appear that an unlooked for bonus of such detail is that these dramas – whilst being mainly entertainment vehicles- unintentionally improve health awareness in the watching public. They do so by providing accurate health information and can cause individuals to take action in regard to their own health or that of their family. In other words, take action to achieve “wellness”. These dramas can thus aid the current shift of focus of governments and public health practitioners to deliver Health & Wellness, aka Health & Wellbeing, (a National Wellness service rather than a National Health service?)  

This shift to Wellness i.e. staying healthy, is in response to the rise of chronic diseases and inequity. The aim is to empower the individual to make healthy choices and to address the social, environmental and economic factors which limit that choice. Health awareness is therefore a prerequisite for wellness.

Call the Midwife, the hit medical TV drama,  works hard to depict accuracy and authenticity 

An essay in April's Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine describes the steps taken by the writers, production team and actors of the hit BBC TV series, Call the Midwife, to ensure the series has sufficient medical accuracy and authenticity [the series is set in the poor Poplar district of East London during the early years of the National Health Service (1950s)]. The series  is viewed by more than 10 million people each week, and sold to almost 200 territories worldwide.

The author  of the essay is the actor Stephen McGann who plays the local community docter [GP], Dr Patrick Turner.

As one would expect, a clinical advisor [a practising midwife and lecturer] oversees childbirth and nursing procedures but this series has gone further. Open-access journals and the Wellcome Trust archive are used as resources by the writer, and relevant health charities are called upon to provide an insight into the health impact of social conditions of the time. McGann himself deliberately chose to make his character a smoker “after reading a BMJ study* [by Richard Doll: Mortality in relation to smoking’: 50 years' observation on male British doctors  BMJ 328 (7455): 1519] which observed the effects of smoking on men over a 50-year period, starting in 1951.  A total of 34,439 smokers took part in the research – all of them doctors.” [*The first publication based on this cohort was in 1954 and is in the Global Health Archive database: ‘The mortality of doctors in relation to their smoking habits.  BMJ 328 (7455): 1529.]

But McGann then goes on to explain that the medical accuracy and authenticity pioneered by ‘Call the Midwife’ has communicated valuable insights to ordinary people into important public health issues …giving them the information to improve their own health.

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Handwashing: harnessing the yuck factor to improve public health

The recent E. coli O104:H4 outbreak has set us thinking about handwashing again. (We've tackled it before in  Now wash your hands)

It’s very difficult to change people’s behaviour  and to prove my point,  just watch this video
Do Shocking Images Change Hygiene Behavior”.  The video refers to a study from University of Denver "Using a relevant threat, EPPM and interpersonal communication to change hand-washing behaviours on campus" which found that making you feel awful about what might be on your hands works better than appealing to the conscience.

But as well as “yuck” factor signs which seem to work on the Denver students,  I wondered what else could be done..

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Please can I have some more?

Pets may be able to negotiate with their owners over what, when and how much they are fed. This is the view of Jon Day of the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition, based in part on evidence of how human babies “ask” for food before they can talk. Analysing these interactions may help avoid obesity in pets. The paper by Day and his colleagues appears in CABI’s broad-ranging reviews journal, CAB Reviews.

 

Both pets and babies use begging and finicky eating habits to control what they are given, in a push-pull relationship. Day and his colleagues say that behaviour before, during and after eating all influence the feeder. Cats can self-regulate their diet in the laboratory at a healthy level, suggesting that obesity in the home may be the result of the pet manipulating the feeder, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

 

Hungry 

cc schmollmolch

Evidence suggests that men are less able to judge levels of hunger in infants than women. There is also wide variation in the ability of pet owners to interpret the behaviour of pets in terms of appetite and “fullness”.

 

Food refusal is common in infants and is thought to make the caregiver more dependent on the infant, and gaining them more attention. Cats sometimes refuse a food that they have previously eaten without problems, and they too may use feed refusal as a strategy to influence what they are fed, but also more generally to dominate their relationship with their owners.  

 

While begging behaviour is influenced by an animal’s hunger, there may also be elements of conditioned routine and social interaction with the owner that affect how much an animal begs. For example, the extent which a dog will beg depends on whether it can see its owner’s face or eyes.  

While there is still more research to be done, it’s probable that at least eight out of ten owners know that their cats are manipulating them over what food they give them, and a better understanding of this may help keep their pets healthier.

 

The paper, “Do pets influence the quantity and choice of food offered to them by their owners: lessons from other animals and the pre-verbal human infant?” by Jon E.L. Day, Sophie Kergoat and Kurt Kotrschal appears in CAB Reviews: Perspectives in Agriculture, Veterinary Science, Nutrition and Natural Resources 2009 4, No. 042.

http://www.cababstractsplus.org/CABReviews/Reviews.asp?action=display&openMenu=relatedItems&ReviewID=106612&Year=2009