Can Public-Private Partnerships Help Shift Behaviours to Stop COVID Spread?

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I recently shared my thoughts about tackling the COVID-19 infodemic, and the gap that remains between what officials are sharing and what the public is absorbing. We’ve seen first-hand that rumours and misinformation can spread quickly and have real public health consequences during a pandemic. As health communicators, we can help share public health information, in a way that prompts behaviour change. But we can’t do this alone. We need to work together to make the most impact. Last week, I had the opportunity to speak about the importance of this cross-sector collaboration as part of the 2020 Virtual Summit of the Society for Health Communication, a professional society working to advance the field of health communication.

Public private partnerships like the Pandemic Action Network can play an important role in health crises, by ensuring representation from diverse areas of expertise and experience; leveraging existing networks to quickly mobilise resources; and reaching disparate audiences through appropriate and effective channels.

Together with our partners, the Pandemic Action Network serves as the organisational hub for a new behaviour change communications effort. Using “For Humankind” as a united brand platform, we will evolve messaging to support behavioural uptake of localized public health guidance. From encouraging new behaviours such as the use of cloth face coverings, to promoting uptake of testing, or re-engagement with health systems, this platform has the ability to pivot quickly using a range of trusted key influencers. We work with public health experts at institutions like US CDC and Africa CDC to ensure message accuracy, timeliness and relevance. By partnering with local, regional and global influencers and tapping into diverse platforms, from social media to gaming, and in community settings including townships in South Africa, we hope to add, support, facilitate and create where there is need. In the next phase of the campaign, we’re working in partnership with community leaders to identify actionable solutions to COVID-19 related problems. Through our platforms, we will amplify community voices, and ensure that community led responses are also heard. We invite other implementers, experts and partners to join the network to share their work and assets.

Our first campaign, #MaskingForAFriend continues to share messaging endorsed by national public health institutions, to make sure people know how to use homemade cloth face coverings to help stem the flow of infections. Through our partnerships, we’ve gathered global influencers, including athletes and celebrities to rally widespread support for, and normalise the use of, cloth face coverings.

As a Network, we’ve learned that we can increase our footprint by leaning into each other’s strengths. We would love you to join us! Help amplify our calls for smart policies to address COVID-19 and future pandemics. Take part in our behaviour change efforts and share who you’re masking for on your social media pages, using #MaskingForAFriend. Together, we will build our Network and ignite a global movement to help accelerate an end to the current COVID-19 pandemic and enhance our preparedness to stop future pandemics.