Press briefing on the COVID Community Engagement Project – November 17, 2021. (PMO)

It may be challenging to change behaviours in the COVID-19 environment.

Social Worker and Counsellor with the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Susette Neblett-Straughn, stated this as she addressed the issue at a media briefing hosted by Public Advisor on COVID-19, David Ellis, to outline Government’s new outreach programme – the COVID Community Engagement Project.

Explaining, she said: “As we are all aware behavioural change for any topic is usually very challenging.  My way of addressing issues would be to start with very small changes.  We don’t want to go into any community, whether it be COVID or dealing with any other issue and bring about drastic changes.”

She said that behaviours are not that easy to change, and persons would have been incorporating these actions in their lifestyles for quite some time.

Stating that the new initiative by the Health Ministry aimed to engage persons in the community, with sometimes a simple message of ‘Protect you; Protect me’, Mrs. Neblett-Straughn said: “We don’t want to go out there and be barking at people: ’Get on your mask! Put on your mask!’.  Yes, that’s what we would want – that you wear your mask effectively and correctly and so on, but we would also need to be mindful of how we are addressing these individuals.

“Persons sometimes see us as threats coming into their community to effect these changes, but we have to engage them.  We have to get their cooperation so that our messages and our ideals would be reached.”

She further pointed out that the outreach would be looking at dispelling myths, through giving correct information.  

“…We also have to be mindful that if we can effect change in one community, effect change in one household, that’s where we are going to have to start.  It’s not going to be an overnight magical situation or effect, but we want [them] to know that we will not give up,” she said.

Mrs. Neblett-Straughn stated the Ministry was looking at having locations within communities where masks and sanitisers would be made available, as well as food hampers and care packages.

“Persons need to know that these things will be made available and how they can reach out to us, if they have a question, if they have a query,” she stressed, while outlining myriad issues seen by social workers, including situations where overcrowding impacted effective quarantining and isolation.

The social worker added that she hopes the survey, which would see the team walking through communities, alleys and villages, would get the input of the residents.

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