[This document was written by Regina Rabinovich, the project’s PrincipaI Investigator together with the ECO teams in Bolivia and Paraguay.]
“Music and the accordion have always been his constant companions,” Yuri Morales Alcócer said of his grandfather. “With them, he kept his family and his soul in harmony.” One day, while playing at a wedding, Yuri’s grandfather was infected with COVID-19. “His fingers could no longer find the right keys. We did everything we could for him, but it was music that helped him to overcome the long-term effects of the disease. The chords gave him back his life.” This is how Yuri described how the virus struck his family and how their story was told in a comic book and video produced as part of the ECO Project (Enhanced and Equitable Coverage of COVID-19) by the Communication and Community group and by representatives of the España Health Centre in Cochabamba, Bolivia.
The chords played by Ramiro Alcócer Fernández were also heard at the launch of the ECO communications campaign, an initiative designed to remind everyone that COVID-19 has not gone away and that many people, especially older adults, individuals with underlying conditions and the unvaccinated are still vulnerable to this disease. ECO, an ISGlobal initiative funded by Unitaid, launched its communications campaign in Bolivia on 4 October and in Paraguay on 7 October 2022.
Using the slogan “Diagnosis and treatment, in time!”, the ECO project encourages people in Bolivia and Paraguay to go to their local health care provider for a nasal antigen test within five days of the onset of possible COVID-19 symptoms and to get available treatments if they test positive.
The ECO project encourages people in Bolivia and Paraguay to go to their local health care provider for a nasal antigen test within five days of the onset of possible COVID-19 symptoms and to get available treatments if they test positive
The aim of the campaign is to strengthen communication, healthcare-seeking behaviours and community engagement through a series of messages designed to promote equitable access to prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment and to enhance the public perception of health centres as welcoming places.
ECO communication campaign in Paraguay
The communication materials were developed through a participative process involving the local community and health professionals working in Cochabamba Bolivia and in Cordillera and Presidente Hayes (Villa Hayes) in Paraguay. Precisely because they were developed as a result of actively listening to input from the community and health care workers, it is hoped that they will strike the right note, knowing, as we do, that two or more notes can constitute a chord, an integral unit that forms part of a harmonious whole.
The materials include banners, posters, flipcharts for use by health personnel, stickers, advertising bags, radio spots, a podcast, videos, a comic and even a rap song about COVID-19. They have been adapted to different contexts, social and cultural settings, and target audiences. During the three months of the campaign, they are being publicised and distributed via social networks and local media. The materials that have been produced, as well as the capabilities and equipment provided by the project, will be passed on to the health services in each country.
The aim of the campaign is to strengthen communication, healthcare-seeking behaviours and community participation through a series of messages designed to promote equitable access to prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment and to enhance the public perception of health centres as welcoming places
To facilitate and ensure prompt diagnosis, ECO has trained the health services in both surveillance and information management, in addition to contributing 97,000 antigen tests and 168 pulse oximeters as well as and other commodities that facilitate the daily work of professionals caring for the patients who come to health centres with symptoms indicative of COVID-19 or other respiratory conditions. Through the Monitoring and Evaluation team, and with the participation of data protection expert Joanna Porcel (ISGlobal), ECO is currently offering a data science training course for 388 Health Ministry staff members in Bolivia and Paraguay.
Discussions with the community in Cordillera (Paraguay).
Although the prevalence of COVID-19 has declined sharply in Bolivia and Paraguay, people over 60 years of age and those with underlying diseases are still at higher risk for a poor prognosis and, for this reason, the ECO project continues to focus on strengthening the health system and engaging with communities.
Although the prevalence of COVID-19 has declined sharply in Bolivia and Paraguay, people over 60 years of age and those with underlying diseases are still at higher risk for a poor prognosis and, for this reason, the ECO project continues to focus on strengthening the health system and engaging with communities
“We have had a lot of meetings with the Local Health Committees, which are the gateway to the community, in face-to-face and online workshops, even at night,” explains Adalid Paiva, president of the Cochabamba Social Health Council. She goes on to explain why: “To improve access to the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19, we need all the information we can get. It helps us to prevent the spread of the infection and to detect, isolate and treat those infected within five days to prevent the disease from spreading.”
Dr Lida Sosa, Vice-Minister of Stewardship and Health Surveillance in the Ministry of Public Health and Social Welfare in Paraguay adds: “At the moment, we are piloting the ECO project in the Cordillera and Presidente Hayes health districts, but the aim is to scale it up nationally and to gradually expand it to cover more territories and municipalities.”
*ECO is an amendment to the previously existing Unitaid BOHEMIA grant and the project is being implemented as a collaboration between three areas in ISGlobal: the Malaria Elimination initiative, the Chagas initiative and the Implementation Science Hub.