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Addressing COVID-19 in Brazil with Consistent Communication
For the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Brazil had among the world’s most disastrous outbreaks. By September, the country had recorded nearly four million infections and over 120,000 deaths, a toll that was growing by nearly 1,000 per day. Recent reports indicate that health care providers across the country lack basic medications and supplies. Leaders are wrestling with a surge of misleading or false information that has reached nine of every ten Brazilians, often via Whatsapp.
Municipal leaders can play an important role in combatting misinformation by disseminating accurate, up-to-date communications about the virus and promoting evidence-based measures for addressing it. The 406 members of the nonpartisan National Front of Mayors represent cities that account for over 61% of Brazil’s population and three quarters of its GDP. But in an absence of national communication guidance, each city has had to develop its own response—effectively reinventing the wheel—while their people hungered for information on steps they could take to stop the spread of the virus.
Partnering with cities
In partnership with the Brazilian National Front of Mayors, Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies, developed and launched a communications campaign to give every local leader clear, reliable materials that drew on the best available evidence about how to stop the pandemic. The Cities against COVID-19 platform makes a wide array of materials freely available, from polished television public service announcements to images and information prepped for social media, ready to be customized with the logo of any participating city. Mayors across Brazil leverage these resources to quickly distribute accurate information from accredited international health organizations like the World Health Organization.
These materials are designed to increase viewers’ perception of the risk that COVID-19 poses for them, thereby promoting healthier behaviors. Each resource underscores the importance of adhering to basic public health and social measures, like the three Ws (Wear a Mask, Wash Your Hands, and Watch Your Distance), which translates into Portuguese as the three “Ms” (Mãos lavadas, Manter a distância de 2m e Máscara no rosto). They also cover a range of additional topics, from safely using mass transit to visiting restaurants and reducing tobacco smoking. “There is no other campaign that is so comprehensive,” said Pedro de Paula, Vital Strategies’ Country Director in Brazil.
When the campaign launched in early August, Brazilian media covered it extensively, including stories in one of the country’s most important newspapers O Estado de São Paulo and dozens of other outlets. Coverage on the radio reached 255 cities that together account for fifty million inhabitants.
Several large cities have already begun incorporating Cities Against COVID-19 resources into their own outreach. Campinas, the second largest municipality in the state of São Paulo, has begun using them to educate its one million inhabitants. And Teresina, capital of the northeastern state of Piauí, has also adopted them. Other cities have also joined in including Jacareí and all the cities in the ‘Consortium ABC’ spanning Sâo Paulo state. Many more have expressed their intent to pick-up the campaign in the next month.
“We are so grateful for this effort,” said the mayor of Campinas, Jonas Donizete. “This platform, the first of its kind in Brazil, is giving life-saving information to local governments like mine.”
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