Advocacy Helps to Bridge the Gap between Pneumonia and Society’s Response to It

Advocacy Helps to Bridge the Gap between Pneumonia and Society’s Response to It

Article posted on August 8, 2017.

Blending health and art to motivate families in Nigeria to recognize and prevent pneumonia

Main Points

  • A video contest in Nigeria invited artists to the health advocacy space, which is usually occupied by public health professionals.
  • Mbee Olemabu MacNelson, 1st place winner, created an original video focused on preventing pneumonia in pidgin, which is understood by most people in Nigeria because it blends elements of the local language with English.
  • Creativity combined with health advocacy can be used to improve society’s awareness of pneumonia, motivating people to take steps to prevent it.

Editor: Dignamartha Kakkanattu

Artists provide a different, unconventional channel to carry the message of pneumonia advocacy from the health sector to the general public. With talent, skills, and vision, they create compelling stories that convey the role interventions play to protect against, prevent, and treat pneumonia. Direct Consulting and Logistics Ltd. (DCL) in Nigeria, on behalf of the International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC), organized a video contest for artists to exercise their skills in the health advocacy space, which is usually occupied by public health professionals. This blog series features the top three winners and their new perspectives on engaging in health advocacy.

Interview with Mbee Olemabu MacNelson, 1st Place

Why were you interested in participating in this contest?

This video competition was the bridge between the two things I love: health and creative arts. I am a medical doctor with a degree from the University of Benin and currently completing an internship with the Federal Medical Center Yenagua, Bayelsa State. One of my friends, Dr. Charles Immanuel Akhimien, posted an announcement about the video competition on Facebook, which sparked my curiosity and I went to the DCL website for more information.

I was excited about the opportunity because it was a hybrid of the two things I truly enjoy doing. While I’m a practicing doctor, I also do video editing, script writing, and stage presentations, such as theatrical plays. Creating a video about pneumonia advocacy was also a chance to showcase the knowledge and skills I learned from my public health course during medical school.

What came as a surprise to you while working on this video?

With a background in the medical field, I’m familiar with pneumonia and how it affects children and families. However, I was shocked by the burden of disease and the large number of lives lost in Nigeria. At the same time, I was encouraged that DCL and IVAC were working to raise awareness about pneumonia through the video contest so that it can be prevented before it becomes dangerous.

Working at a pediatric clinic and hospital was resourceful because it gave me a glimpse of what parents knew about pneumonia. Most of the time they would say their child is breathing ‘up up’ (fast breathing) and has a fever, but they didn’t know it was pneumonia and the causes of the illness. My online research also confirmed that the general public in Nigeria knows very little about this disease.

To reach a broad community in Nigeria, including those who lived in rural settings, I chose a language that was common. I created an original video focused on the key points of preventing pneumonia in pidgin. This type of communication, which blends elements of the local language with English, is understood by most people in Nigeria.

What did you learn about advocacy through this project?

I found out that advocacy helps to bridge the gap between the illness and society’s response to it. We are built as people that respond to things we hear, but if we don’t receive information about pneumonia, society will not know how to prevent or treat it. Child health advocates have the resources to engage society and educate people so that information about pneumonia becomes common knowledge. Just by participating in this video competition, I became more self-aware of pneumonia prevention by washing my hands more often and sharing information about the importance of handwashing.

I think more people outside of the health sector, such as teachers, artists, and religious leaders, should be involved in pneumonia advocacy because they are also affected. Artists especially have a role because they are public figures that have influence. Imagine if someone like Omotola (a famous Nigerian actress) appeared on TV saying, “have you immunized your child today?” That could encourage parents to take their children to get vaccinated against pneumonia and other diseases. Creativity combined with health advocacy can be used to improve society’s awareness of this disease and motivate them to take the steps to stop it from spreading.

How has this work impacted you and how do you plan to use this experience moving forward?

Professionally, I’m more determined to pursue a graduate degree in public health because it makes a positive impact on an entire population with inexpensive measures. Personally, winning first place in the video competition was a major boost for my self-confidence, after a long strike of losing many things. It gave me courage to want to pursue more challenges like this knowing I can do it and it gave me hope knowing that my two interests can be combined to improve the lives of many people.

I’m more excited about health advocacy and using it to engage communities. It’s a powerful tool that can save many people from preventable conditions. I intend on being more involved in health advocacy now that I’ve seen the benefits. It provides the knowledge to live a good life. Even people in rural communities who have very little wealth can be healthy by taking simple preventive measures.

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