Implementation kit for Social Behavior Change Communication (SBCC) in Emergencies
Health Communication Capacity Collaborative, USAID
In the wake of Ebola and in the throes of the Zika outbreak, more focus than ever is on the importance of strong and resilient health systems that serve and promote the well-being of individuals, households and communities. Engaging in social and behavior change communication (SBCC) preparedness efforts as part of strengthening a health system, and certainly prior to a critical incident, can bolster a health system’s ability to respond to an emergency public health crisis.
SBCC ensures that relevant stakeholders from different institutions are identified, understand their roles and can quickly engage together to solve a problem. They ensure that structures among various agencies and feedback loops – from communities to policymakers, managers and service providers – are established in advance to allow for a successful coordination of effort. These and other initiatives can contribute to an overall transformation of health systems, allowing them to function well and respond to emergencies when necessary.
The purpose of the Social and Behavior Change Communication for Emergency Preparedness Implementation Kit (hereafter referred to as “the I-Kit”) is to provide a set of key considerations for SBCC activities in emergency situations.
During emergencies, coordinated, clear and credible communication aids in minimizing resulting health, social and economic costs. However, the uncertainty that characterizes emergencies typically fuels fear and panic among communities, and spreads misconceptions
and rumors that affect people’s ability to appropriately respond to the emergency. Communication is crucial to addressing the behavioral and social aspects of health risks that precede and follow an emergency, and as such must be integrated into the response agenda from the outset. It is critical to ensure that communication efforts are harmonized, relevant, timely, financially supported and aligned among all of the preparedness technical teams. A strong and united voice heard through various sources can determine whether an emergency spirals out of control or is brought into check as soon as possible.
A well-coordinated, timely and strategic communication strategy and implementation plan can manage people’s expectations during an emergency and assist response efforts. Affected communities can be engaged and supported to make the required changes, rumors can be detected early and barriers to desired behaviors can be identified and addressed promptly.
It is our hope that by completing the exercises presented in this I-Kit, national governments will be better prepared to manage serious public health events. In completing this I-Kit, users will gain an understanding of the key considerations for an SBCC emergency preparedness plan and the foundation of an SBCC strategy, one of the key documents for an emergency communication response.