There is a lot of information being availed about the coronavirus and the COVID 19 pandemic. An emergent breed of “experts” purporting to provide guiding information about how people can protect themselves and their loved ones and therefore break the chain of infection, has emerged from all corners. The result is that many people are getting confused about who to listen to and who to believe. This situation is causing confusion, which is in turn reducing the perception of the risk to life that is posed by the pandemic.
To address this situation, a group of senior doctors, who are thought leaders in their fields, have offered to partner with the government in helping people to understand and take appropriate measures to break the spread of COVID 19. Through an initiative known as Break the Chain, the specialists are available to respond to questions and concerns about COVID 19 on social and mainstream media and to explain the medical reasons behind the protocols that have been recommended by the Ministry of Health.
Doctors behind the Break the Chain initiative are working under the umbrella of an organisation known as Doctors for Healthy Living (DHL). They are coordinated by one of the most experienced chest experts in Kenya and Africa, Dr. Joseph Aluoch. Dr. Aluoch is currently the Patron of the Kenya Association for the Prevention of Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases, and the President of the Pan-African Thoracic Society (PATS). He has practiced medicine for more than half a century.
A doctor-driven initiative, DHL seeks to mobilise the public into changing behaviour in relation to serious public health threats. It provides a unique platform for individual doctors to play their part in contributing to promotion of public health outside their day-to-day medical practice. It takes a special focus on promoting timely, accurate and practical information as well as social mobilisation towards prevention and control of public health calamities such as those today now being witnessed globally as a result of the coronavirus.
The DHL team of doctors have singled out the coronavirus as serious and dangerous disease-causing agent that is behaving very differently from any other historically known virus. “During my 50 years of medical practice, I have never come across anything like this virus,” said Dr. Aluoch. “Most viruses are not spread by people who are not showing symptoms, yet coronavirus is being spread by people who otherwise look healthy. Therefore, social distancing must be emphasised and enforced. People must also be encouraged and supported to minimise movement, avoid crowding and be extremely vigilant about hygiene generally, and specifically, washing hands with soap and using alcohol-based sanitisers, where it is not practical to wash hands.”
1.Through social media platforms, share facts about Covid 19 for different audience groups 2. Avail themselves to the media to serve as experts on various areas of medicine so as to ensure we have the right information all the time as we deal with the pandemic 3. Respond to questions raised by the public on a daily basis around Covid 19 and what we should do to stay safe 4. Help to create meaning and clarity needed to guide action out of the flood of information reaching Kenyans from numerous sources 5. Reinforce the messages being given by the Ministry of Health 6. Empathetically provide Kenyans with the will to act in the face of this new threat that has never been experienced before anywhere in the world
This is the second major national public health mobilisation effort by DHL. In 2018, DHL ran a national campaign dubbed Know Your Numbers (KYN). The KYN campaign culminated in a medical camp held at Uhuru Park in Nairobi on 30th October 2018. Hundreds of people had five of their critical numbers measured namely, blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), blood glucose, waist circumference and cholesterol. During that campaign and now in efforts to roll back COVID 19, DHL worked closely with the Ministry of Health, giving unbiased health advise, support and guidance on preventive measures.
Veteran cardiologist Dr. Robert Mathenge, who is the founding Chairman of DHL, weighed in about the Break the Chain initiative by cautioning: “COVID 19 is a national challenge of unprecedented proportions. As doctors with decades of experience, we must bring to bear this experience to support the national response and help to raise the public’s perception of risk from this virus. This is what is currently required to get all Kenyans to appreciate the danger posed by the virus and take the measures being recommended by the Government with the seriousness that deserve.”
On his part, DHL founding member and communication advisor, Mr. Lawrence Gikaru, urged Kenyans to take advantage of the Break the Chain initiative to get accurate medical advice which suites the Kenyan context from the veteran medics. “Break the Chain provides a unique opportunity for people to get accurate, and practical information to help themselves and their loved ones from COVID 19 infection. We therefore urge Kenyans to confidently send all COVID 19 queries through the social media and other platforms established by DHL through Break the Chain initiative.”
Infographics from the campaign