From April to December 2020, Amplio partnered with Ghana Health Service and UNICEF to reach 8 rural districts with accurate COVID-19 messages
Last spring, Amplio and Ghana Health Service partnered on an emergency COVID-19 awareness campaign in eight districts in the Upper West Region. UNICEF provided the loan of their Talking Books. Our Ghana team worked with district health directors to produce audio content about COVID-19 symptoms, treatment, and safety. Messages were recorded in local languages and loaded onto Talking Books, which the team distributed to 207 CHPS compounds and five community health volunteers (CHVs) per district.
Nurses used Talking Books to share consistent COVID-19 messages during antenatal care and child wellness clinics. CHVs played messages during household visits. The team also connected Talking Books to battery-powered outdoor speakers to broadcast COVID-19 messages in the markets and lorry stations. The project reached over 200,000 people.
Messages to Address COVID-19
Amplio Ghana deployed three sets of messages, recorded in four local dialects. The first deployment covered coronavirus symptoms, treatment, and prevention, as well as meningitis information due to an outbreak in the region. Content included endorsements from health directors and traditional leaders. The second and third deployments included songs, dramas, and interviews to address COVID-19 stigmatization and domestic violence, two emerging issues identified by the local monitoring and evaluation assistants.
Each deployment included contact information for Ghana Health Service.
Usage Data and Survey Findings
To promote action learning, the team reviewed Talking Book usage statistics. They also worked with M&E staff to lead community dialogues and conduct a household survey at the project midway point (Jul-Aug). Activities took place over the phone or in person with social distancing guidelines.
Usage data revealed that endorsement messages were the most played. Community health workers explained that people were scared and unsure about what to do. Endorsements recorded by local leaders helped build trust and combat misinformation. Other popular messages included a drama on how to talk to children about COVID-19 and a drama about welcoming a COVID-19 survivor back into a community.
The graph below shows a sample of COVID-19 topics with usage data for the number of times messages were played to completion.
Survey respondents cited their top sources of COVID-19 information as radio (89%) and Talking Books (44.3%). However, not everyone has radios. Respondents reflected that Talking Books helped the most vulnerable community members gain access to critical information. The survey also found evidence of COVID-19 stigma. Most community members were fearful of those who had recovered from COVID-19. People also were afraid to go to the hospital for treatment. These findings informed the development of new messages.
Through monitoring, the team recognized a strain on Ghana Health Services. GHS sees a high turnover of community health workers. However, turnover was even higher due to COVID-19. To build capacity for health education, the team ran Talking Book refresher trainings.
”The Talking Book can deliver our health advice at the time of day when most people are home. With the radio, one may miss out. Also, the Talking Book plays the same message consistently, and I believe this consistency is an advantage.”
Endorsements and Program Expansion
When the campaign came to an end in December, GHS had positive feedback. Nurses reported that Talking Books helped them deliver COVID-19 messages, allowing more time for direct services. CHVs said the device gave them greater authority within their communities. District health directors emphasized the value of being able to deliver consistent and accurate information. They also saw a use for Talking Books to support other health education priorities, including noncommunicable diseases, family planning, immunizations, and adolescent sexual and reproductive health.
Our partnership with GHS and UNICEF continues in 2021. Community health workers are currently using Talking Books at 27 CHPS compounds and 20 mobile clinics in Jirapa District. The initiative also builds on a successful Talking Book pilot conducted in 2019.
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