Regional Communications Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Birth Defects
For the prevention and management of birth defects, an enabling and supportive environment is crucial to encourage individuals, families and communities to adopt and sustain new behaviors. This is achieved through a range of health communication activities including community mobilization and media campaigns. Public campaigns need to focus on alleviating the stigma related to birth defects and sensitively address cultural and religious issues such as consanguinity, myths and misconceptions around birth defects.
Strategically planned communication helps influence policy-makers and opinion leaders to bring about changes in policies, as well as encouraging structural changes within the community to support healthy behaviors. Hence, it is equally important to conduct advocacy with policy- and decision-makers to position birth defects among existing priorities in the national health agenda of countries.
The World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for South-East Asia developed a regional strategic framework for the prevention and control of birth defects (2013-2017), to guide Member States in developing national plans to address birth defects. The strategic framework recommends that a well-designed communication strategy is an important element for the prevention and control of birth defects.
This regional communication strategy for the prevention and control of birth defects has, therefore, been prepared, in consultation with Member States, to guide the development of strategic communication plans to facilitate implementation of national plans for the prevention and control of birth defects. Considering that health communication is an important component of ongoing reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health and related programs in Member States, the regional communication strategy recommends the integration of communication activities for birth defects into existing public health programs, as far as possible, for synergistic effect.
A set of communication tools is also provided in the form of ready-to-use templates that could be used for advocacy, awareness generation etc. in different media channels for prevention of birth defects within the country.