NITI Aayog

NITI Aayog holds interactive session with Civil Society Organizations & NGOs on ‘Stigmatization of COVID-19’

Need of the hour is to be more sensitive in communication, more compassionate in messaging and to understand that there is no need to panic: NITI Aayog CEO

Challenge is addressing the rejection arising from fear and lack of awareness of COVID-19 among public: Health Secretary

Our messages should target the heart, not the head alone: Joint Secretary, Health Ministry to Civil Society and NGOs engaged in fighting COVID-19

Posted On: 25 APR 2020 8:11PM by PIB Mumbai

: New Delhi/Mumbai, April 25, 2020

There is an element of stigma which is getting attached with COVID-19 and all of us need to collectively work on addressing it, said Shri Luv Aggarwal, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare in an interactive session with civil society organizations and NGOs organized by NITI Aayog at New Delhi today. A big challenge in fighting COVID-19 is to put an end to stigma against patients and healthcare workers, he said.  While Government has initiated a systematic campaign to address stigmatization of COVID-19, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) can mobilize community to ensure sensitization, outreach and mobilization. Stating that CSOs & NGOs are playing a vital role in spreading the message of social distancing & best practices to follow during the pandemic, Shri Aggarwal urged them to actively join the Government's efforts in eliminating the stigma involved with COVID19. 

Health Secretary, Smt. Preeti Sudan stated that the Government has amended the Epidemic Diseases Act to protect healthcare service personnel and others rendering COVID services, so as to address this issue of stigma.  But the bigger challenge is addressing the rejection arising from fear and lack of awareness of COVID-19 among public. Resonating this view, Shri Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog stressed on being more sensitive in the way we communicate, more compassionate in our messaging and to understand that there is no need to panic.

The Joint Secretary stated that we need to focus on health response, social protection and psycho-social support, with the help of various civil society organizations. He shared certain communication tools and methodologies with the participating CSOs and NGOs, that may be used while reaching out to people.

Positives

First Shri Aggarwal highlighted some of the positive sides that have emerged in India’s fight against COVID-19 so far. He stated that:

  • About 80% of those getting infected with COVID-19 recover without the need for any special treatment.
  • More than 20% of people infected with COVID-19 in India have already recovered.
  • There are 307 green zones where no case of COVID-19 has been reported for the last 28 days or more.
  • 297 districts are orange zones, from where relatively low number of cases have been reported.
  • From 3.4 days before lockdown, the doubling time of COVID-19 cases has improved to 9.1 days now
  • The number of people, one infected person can end up infecting in one month comes down from 406 (while there was no social distancing) to 2.5 (with 75% adherence to social distancing measures). This shows why social distancing is important in containing the spread of the infection.

Communication Tools for Media, Communication Organizations and Community Organizations to Address COVID-19 related Stigma  

  • We should never disclose the names or localities of those affected or under COVID-19 quarantine.
  • We should not label any community or area for spread of COVID-19.
  • Our messages should target the heart, not the head alone. Messages like ‘Stay Indoors to Reduce Transmissions’ should be reframed as ‘Stay Inside to Protect your Loved Ones, Parents or Grandparents’ or even health-workers and critical service providers. 
  • Messaging and campaigning around COVID should have specific mention of the gendered implications.
  • Information to be given on government helplines, and on NGO helplines where available, which vulnerable people, including women in distress can use.
  • Focus on simple, non-technical content to specifically address myths and misconceptions.
  • Reinforce need for humane treatment of patients and their families.
  • Anxiety among migrant population and marginalized communities to be addressed. Our communication tools should inform migrant workers and their family members about the benefits government is providing them.
  • We need to view our frontline service providers as champions and protectors
  • We need to understand that there is no risk of transmission from recovered COVID-19 patients, moreover they are potential healers.
  • We need people to know that
    • Anyone can get infected
    • There is no need to fear after recovery
    • Quarantine centres are to protect patients
    • Pre-symptomatic people can spread COVID-19, hence they too need to take preventive measures.

In the interactive round of the session, the representatives of the NGOs and CSOs shared their views on COVID-19 related stigma and methods of dealing with it. Certain suggestions given were: Peer education in healthcare segment, Compassionate communication highlighting technical advances around cure, people who have cured and areas marked safe; Employing positive imagery and voices of influencers; Behaviour Change Communication campaign tailored to different target segments; Welcome messages for migrants and involvement of grass-root associations.

The advisory by Health Ministry on COVID-19 stigma can be found here. The interactive session can be watched below.

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DJM/SC

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