Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category


Communication on Transboundary Animal Diseases: Lessons from Human Health

In Announcements,Blog,Current Events,DevCom,Updates on May 6, 2012 by Jim Tagged: , , , ,

PERTH, AUSTRALIA—What lessons can animal health specialists learn from public health programs? A Murdoch University Partnership scholar will discuss part of the results of his research during a free seminar at Murdoch University’s School of Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences.

Domingo “Jim” Caro III of Manila, Philippines, an Australian Biosecurity Centre for Research Cooperation scholarship recipient will discuss “Communicating on Transboundary Animal Diseases: Lessons from Human Health” on 17 May at Rm. VB3.023 from 12:30pm. He conducted his research in three Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) countries, Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam. He combined quantitative and qualitative approaches to investigate and evaluate communication on TADs and confirmed previous findings that there was some awareness on TADs among study participants. However, he also found that there was no true knowledge among the study participants and identified a number of factors affecting the communication on TADs.

Caro, a development communication specialist, hopes that results from his research will guide the design and implementation of communication programs in developing countries, particularly in the selected GMS countries.



Upcoming Communication Conferences

In Announcements,Current Events,DevCom,Worthy links on November 19, 2009 by Jim Tagged: , , , , ,

Three equally important communication conferences to be held in the Asia-Pacific Region. Click on the link for details and how to submit papers.


Communication, is it more skills than science?

In Blog,DevCom,Ideas on April 16, 2009 by Jim

Back when I was working for an international organisation, I often hear my colleagues trying to tone down the importance of communications staff in most projects. Whether this is driven by economics or something else is everybody’s guess.

Communicating with people might require some skills but is communication management, in general, a ‘common sense’ skills? Paolo Mefalopulos makes a good point as to why there’s a need for communication professionals to step in a number of interventions especially development ones.

He noted the suggestion of a renowned Latin American communication scholar, Luis Ramiro Beltran, to rename communication specialists as ‘communicologist’. Mefalopulos said that this will be a good distinction from other professions and highlights the importance of being a communication specialist. He noted that there is a trend for organisations to hire a media-related professional for a communication management job, however, managing development communication intervention requires a number of professional skills.

He lists the following knowledge, competencies and skills that a good ‘communicologist’ should posses:

  • deeper knowledge of the theoretical body of knowledge on communication and its various branches such as political communication, mass communication, communication research, participatory communication [and development communication among others]
  • able to apply communication effectively in all sorts of situations the communicologist should be familiar with the basic principles of a number of other discipline, namely anthropology, ethnography, sociology, political economy, adult education and participatory approaches.
  • [communicologists involved in development initiatives should also be familiar or have basic knowledge in agriculture, computer science and economics].
  • the communicologist would need to be familiar with the development field and the project cycle, in order to conduct assessments and develop strategy that from their inceptions use communication to engage stakeholders and define objectives, thus making the planning and implementation more effective and sustainable.
  • the communicologist should have the right attitude, one of the rarest commodities to be found in many specialists. S/he should be ready and willing to listen, listen and then listen again, before even trying to understand, assess and propose solutions. S/he should have a high degree of empathy towards the stakeholders groups involved in the process of change. S/he should be willing to use two-way communication to build trust, achieve mutual understanding, mediate and seek consensus on issues that need to be improved.

In this age, communication has evolved from being just a tool of information but to a tool for development.


RP animal health communication

In Current Events,DevCom,Ideas on December 16, 2008 by Jim Tagged: , , , ,

(Partially lifted from my other blog)

A recent ebola outbreak among hogs was recently reported in the Philippines. An ebola virus was confirmed in a subsequent laboratory test in the US and no further outbreaks were reported. Other quarantined animals were confirmed negative of the virus.

‘Fortunately,’ the ebola outbreak among hogs in the Philippines was caused by the low pathogenic ebola reston strain, which does not affect humans. When it was first detected in the US in 1989, it fatally affected monkeys. The suspected monkeys that introduced the virus came from the Philippines. Investigations led to discovery of other outbreaks in the Philippines, which reported it between 1989 and 1990.

The US had a subsequent outbreak in 1996 and it was again traced to monkeys imported from the Philippines. These outbreaks prompted studies to investigate the zoonotic nature of the strain, which was later disproved.

In the current ebola outbreak, Philippine animal health authorities took a while to release the news although it is certain that investigations were continuing after the outbreak was confirmed and strict biosecurity measures in the farms and province reportedly affected were properly imposed.

The Philippine government recently confirmed the ebola outbreak among hogs almost a little more than a month after it was detected. It immediately stopped pig meat exports “as a precautionary measure.” Philippine authorities assured the public that the ebola virus in pigs was not fatal to humans. The Philippine animal and public health authorities again urged the public to buy only government certified meat. Further tests in other farms showed negative results confirming that the ebola outbreak among hogs was an isolated incident.


Philippine Agriculture officials assured affected farmers of aid and claimed that it will seek international assistance to finally investigate the reservoir of the virus in the country. It has invited international animal health experts and veterinarians to investigate. A Bloomberg report said that international health experts are positive about the recent hog ebola outbreaks will finally lead scientists “to ‘elusive reservoir’ of virus.”

The Philippine’s Department of Agriculture (DA) where the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) is a line agency has a communications unit, the Agriculture and Fisheries and Information Services (AFIS). The AFIS serves a number of bureaus and agencies under the Department (Ministry to other countries), some of which do not have a communications unit of its own. The AFIS assists the bureaus and agencies in drafting of communication strategies or message development on crops, fisheries, livestock among others.

The AFIS manpower and resources, however, is very limited. Priority is given to crops, which makes half of the country’s agriculture sector while livestock is around 12%. Having previously worked for BAI, I noticed that AFIS seems to have a large media relations role for the whole department and also has a big role as such for each bureau, agency or regional field unit of the DA.

Most Filipino animal health authorities would likely preempt public opinion if they hear terms which they feel would result to feeding images such as scenes from the movie Outbreak. The ebola virus causes haemmorhagic ebola fever, which is fatal for humans. This is one crisis that any politicians or health (both public and animal) authorities would not like to have.

It pays to have laid out plans in cases of risk and crisis communication. However, in my work as a communications officer for a foreign assisted project in BAI, it is very frustrating to realise that there is no such plan in place. Risk and crisis communication, let alone animal health comunication, is a reactive activity for the Department (of Agriculture). This attitude towards risk and crisis communication and, by and large, animal health communication, puts a dent to the whole reputation of the Department.

Public trust when betrayed in any crisis will jeopardize any activity that are aimed at minimizing the impact of a potentially damaging crisis such as animal disease outbreaks. The Department has certainly opened up itself to criticisms that it is capable of covering up cases especially if it is ‘just an epizootic disease.’ No report, no crisis?

The Department has been a recipient of a number of technical assistance from foreign governments to non-government organizations. These assistance range from veterinary capacity, biosecurity, laboratory management, including communications, however, it seems that the communications part was not a priority that they still fall into the trap of tripping in an impending crisis.

The Department has had a number of reports regarding programs on the control of significant outbreaks (from FMD to suspected HPAI ) in the Philippines with, probably, lessons learned as a significant section in these reports. However, the current action of the Department to this crisis shows that these reports were merely submitted for formality’s sake. The training received by staff might have gone down the drain as the top level management has yet to act on the recommendations, especially animal health communication, that is institutionalize it in the national programs and follow it as they will follow biosecurity guidelines.