Confronting Misconceptions About Pneumonia in the Community

Confronting Misconceptions About Pneumonia in the Community

Article posted on May 18, 2017.

Film maker Joshua Oluchukwu Lawrence emphasizes need for community influencers to serve as health advocates in Nigeria

Main Points

  • A video contest in Nigeria invited artists to the health advocacy space—usually occupied by public health professionals.
  • Joshua Oluchukwu Lawrence won 3rd place for his film about misconceptions around pneumonia.
  • His experience taught him that advocacy is a social responsibility and everyone has a role to play.

Editor: Salma Warshanna-Sparklin

Artists in Nigeria have focused their camera lenses on pneumonia—the country’s leading cause of death among children under age 5. They were answering the call of World Pneumonia Day (November 12) to raise awareness about the issue, proven solutions, and gaps in resources. A contest, managed by Direct Consulting and Logistics Ltd. in Nigeria on behalf of the International Vaccine Access Center, invited the artists to exercise their skills in the health advocacy space—usually occupied by public health professionals. With a social media audience in mind, contestants produced creative, concise, and informative videos. This blog series features the top three winners and their new perspectives on engaging in health advocacy.

Interview with Joshua Oluchukwu Lawrence, 3rd Place

Why were you interested in participating in this contest?

I’m a theatre instructor and I teach drama in about seven schools in Lagos State. On the side, I create visual effects and graphics for Phoenix Production House. My best friend told me about the contest and I saw it as a challenge for me. I had never really done any major film production. The work was for a cause that I wanted to be a part of, especially because I’ve lost someone as a result of her not getting vaccinated. The need for awareness of immunization against pneumonia is great.

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

In order to participate in the contest, I had to do much research. I learned that even though I knew about pneumonia, most of the knowledge I had was wrong. For example, I was surprised by the many causes and how the illness is actually transmitted. That’s why my video used the misconception angle.

During my research, I interviewed people within both rural (Ajah) and urban (Lekki Peninsula and Victoria Island) parts of my community. Shockingly, to a large extent, society’s awareness of pneumonia is very low. Those that are aware of it—a few people from the urban community—didn’t know how to tackle it.

The ignorance falls mostly in the mode of transmission. There are misconceptions that sleeping on the floor and on bare tiles or eating too much beans can cause pneumonia. Some people even say pneumonia is demonic.

What did you learn about advocacy through this project?

Advocacy is everyone’s job—not only for social workers or special agencies. The danger of pneumonia and diseases that can be prevented by vaccines affects all, either directly or indirectly. If the general public can make advocacy their civil and social responsibility, then we can cover a large audience in little time and get the solutions we need.

I feel it’s particularly important for teachers, musicians, and pastors to get involved with pneumonia advocacy. It’s easier for them to advocate for a cause, as they occupy places of influence and have access to the crowd that needs to hear about it. So it should be their social responsibility to educate people about pneumonia advocacy and vaccine advocacy in general.

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

It has made me gain more confidence in my work and helped me in my storytelling! It has also strengthened my understanding of the power of children in theatre. Most emotional stories are best told through children.

I’m a big fan of movies with a cause. I intend to do more short, animated movies on health-related issues to advocate for funds from the government and to sensitize people on the need for immunization. In between my classes, I intend to educate the kids on the need for vaccination and some other health-related issues.

I’ve gotten a few new film jobs after I emerged as one of the winners. Recently during Autism Week, we created an awareness video using poetry. I’m also working on a project to create short, two- to three-minute animated skits for television that correct misconceptions about illnesses and treatments. Titles of a few animated skits include “Polio is not the woman fault,”  “Sickle cell anemia: No be witch work,”  and “The killer called cancer.”

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