OTCs in Action Episode 21: Medicine men and OTC marketers

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“Medicine men key to halting Ebola spread in Guinea”

A fascinating Reuters article published last week says: “In a land where witchcraft is sought after more than science for curing illness, medicine men in Guinea say the Ebola epidemic would be over by now if they had been properly included in the outbreak response.”

It seems that an educational campaign using mass media did not reach villages with limited electricity and broadcast signals. Jean Marie Dangou, head of the World Health Organisation in Guinea, observed “For about one year the main communication strategy was built around media, mainly radio and TV, but it wasn’t successful. The country is still dealing with tough and repetitive resistance.”

Karamoko Ibrahima Fofana, president of an association of traditional healers, guérisseurs, told Reuters: “Guérisseurs are often the first port of call for the sick. We could have spread information on how to protect against Ebola or told people with symptoms to seek help in the treatment centers.” Fofana explained that the guérisseurs in his association are now keen to do so, having been trained by UN staff.

One can only wonder if OTC marketers had led the campaign, whether the approach to reach patients may have been different – suppose health education campaigns were put through the rigours of an Rx-to-OTC switch, for example, where consumers of every reading level must be able to comprehend and appropriately act on instructions on product labels, especially when to seek medical assistance. If these villagers were our potential customers, would we not have been in those villages to assess their needs and communication resources? Would we have respected the influence of the guérisseurs, as we do the pharmacist?

Source: Reuters

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