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CIPR International: Leveraging Public Relations for Global Health Awareness on World Health Day

On World Health Day 2024, CIPR committee members Ọmọ́tọ́lá Akíndípẹ̀, Klao Bell-Lewis, Nooralhuda Aljlas consider the role of public relations in fostering health awareness and education on the African continent, in the Caribbean and the Middle East.


In an era where global health challenges are becoming increasingly complex, the role of public relations in fostering health awareness and education has never been more crucial. On World Health Day 2024, under the theme My Health, My Right, the World Health Organisation (WHO) champions the fundamental right of every individual to access quality health services, education, and information. From the Caribbean to Africa and the Middle East, each region brings unique perspectives, challenges, and strategies highlighting the important role of strategic communication and PR in advancing public health.

As we explore these perspectives, this piece aims to show the ways in which PR practitioners around the globe are leveraging their expertise to support WHO’s vision, ensuring that health rights are recognised and upheld universally.

In the Caribbean, the commitment to World Health Day is evident through the robust initiatives led by the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and the Caribbean Regional Health Authority (CARPHA), which align closely with WHO’s objectives. These efforts are expressed in targeted campaigns, visible engagements, and strategic dissemination of health messages across ministries and public platforms, highlighting the region's proactive approach to health communication. Jamaica and Barbados highlight how important public relations is in making health events a key part of societal life with campaigns like Jamaica Moves, Know Your Numbers, and initiatives against non-communicable diseases, demonstrating the power of strategic communication in fostering an informed and health-conscious community. World Health Day in the region ties into broader health initiatives, highlighting the strategic use of PR to promote public health and policy responses. Petre Williams-Raynor of the Ministry of Health and Wellness in Jamaica emphasises that health observances like this are key for highlighting health challenges and engaging the public. Similarly, Shayla Murrell from the Barbados Government Information Service underlines PR's role in fostering trust and dialogue between the public and health policymakers, ensuring accurate information dissemination and addressing public concerns. She highlighted the role of PR and communications in promoting Barbados' initiatives aimed at fighting obesity and non-communicable diseases. Through strategic collaboration with the education sector, civil society, and media, the launch of a mobile clinic to provide screenings and immunisations has garnered positive public response and significant social media engagement, demonstrating the effectiveness of PR in enhancing public health outreach.

The continent of Africa faces unique challenges, from battling widespread health misinformation to addressing specific health crises exacerbated by external factors like climate change. PR practitioners on the continent are engaged in debunking myths, especially those magnified during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in promoting essential health education. During COVID-19, for instance, there were online claims about COVID-19 vaccines impacting menstrual cycles in Kenya. These rumors can disrupt vaccination programs, like the polio vaccine misinformation in Nigeria in 2003. To combat this, WHO and partners formed the Africa Infodemic Response Alliance (AIRA) in December 2020. AIRA uses social media to quickly debunk false claims, including a video by Dr. Phionah Atuhebwe addressing vaccine myths, viewed by 1.8 million people. Other strategies involve close collaboration with trusted health institutions such as Africa CDC to provide accurate, evidence-based information, thereby enhancing public trust and engagement in health initiatives. These efforts are aimed not only at addressing current health challenges but also at ensuring the long-term resilience of health systems against the backdrop of Africa’s rapid demographic changes, highlighting the essential role of PR in achieving health equity across the continent.

The Middle East has showcased remarkable innovation in response to pandemics, particularly through the strategic use of public-private partnerships and the deployment of smart solutions to manage the COVID-19 crisis. The example of Bahrain illustrates the effectiveness of combining governmental oversight with innovative tech-driven approaches to health management, setting an example for proactive crisis response. This region's PR efforts have been instrumental in maintaining public trust and ensuring compliance with health directives, proving the indispensable role of communication strategies in navigating and mitigating the impacts of global health emergencies. There have also been numerous studies which have informed PR strategies on health communication. In Saudi Arabia, a study by Jareh Alotaibi analysed COVID-19 related tweets by five Saudi governmental ministries to understand their communication strategies during the pandemic, using a retrospective content analysis approach. Of the 3,950 tweets examined, topics were divided into disease-related (49.2%) and non-disease related (50.8%) categories, covering areas from awareness and prevention to online learning and digital platforms. Correlation analysis revealed significant associations between categories like testing and digital platforms, and awareness and prevention, among others. The study suggests that incorporating health behavior theoretical frameworks into social media communication can enhance the effectiveness of government messaging by addressing the underlying determinants of public behavior during health crises.

Collectively, these regions showcase the dynamic role of PR in the global health landscape. From the Caribbean's health campaigns and Africa's engagement against misinformation to the Middle East's innovative crisis management and research on health communications, PR professionals are at the forefront of advocating for health rights, enhancing public trust, and fostering community engagement in health initiatives. Their work supports WHO's vision for universal health coverage and also underscores the critical importance of strategic communication in advancing global health objectives, ensuring that the right to health is recognised and upheld worldwide.


As we commemorate World Health Day 2024, the collective insights from the Caribbean, African, and Middle Eastern regions show the critical role of public relations in the global health landscape. Through strategic communication, PR professionals across these diverse regions have demonstrated adaptability and resourcefulness in promoting health awareness, debunking misinformation, and fostering community engagement. This approach bridges the gap between health authorities and the communities they serve, ensuring that accurate, reliable, and culturally relevant health information reaches everyone, everywhere.

By continuing to leverage the unique strengths and insights of PR professionals around the world, we can ensure that health awareness is widespread and impactful, leading to informed, engaged, and healthy communities. On this World Health Day, let us celebrate the strides made towards global health awareness and universal health access while reaffirming our commitment to ensuring that everyone, everywhere, can assert their right to health.


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