'Mistrust, low health literacy key barriers to better health'

 Describing Ebola outbreak as a "communications catastrophe", a new report has cited controversy, mistrust, and low health literacy as the key barriers to better health.

Doha: Describing Ebola outbreak as a "communications catastrophe", a new report has cited controversy, mistrust, and low health literacy as the key barriers to better health.

The report - "Communicating Complex Health Messages (CCHM)" - presented at the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH), looks at the need for greater education and training for those who are designing and delivering health messages.

The research shows that patients in the US have lost faith in leaders of the medical profession with a sharp decline of 39 per cent between 1964 and 2012 while trust in vaccine guidance issued from government institutions was at a lowly 23 per cent.

The report includes a number of case studies on Ebola, MRSA, cancer and discusses new ways of communicating about health and disease.

"The Ebola outbreak has been a communications catastrophe - worsened by a lack of understanding, mistrust and confusion with incidences of patients leaving quarantine clinics and doctors having stones thrown at them," the report said.

It describes a wide range of health communication issues such as trust, relevance, accessibility, channels, opposing views and volume along with innovative solutions including a three-step framework for effective communication.

"The gap between the health we have and the health we could have is not solely a failure of knowledge. It is a failure to share the knowledge that exists and translate it into action.

"Whether we want to maintain and improve health, contain immediate public health crises or respond appropriately to ill health, the messages we send and receive play a critical role," it said.

"The recommendations stemming from our research aims to improve heath communication around the world. We provide a structure for communicators to follow, resulting in messages that are personally relevant and impactful," said L Suzanne Suggs, Associate Professor at Universit? della Svizzera Italiana.

Princess Dina Mired, Director General of the King Hussein Cancer Foundation (KHCF) of Jordan noted that the report comes at a crucial time as this health-care topic has long been overlooked.

"I have found that health communication is not high on our priority list... This is why I am really happy to be part of this important panel to help catalyze efforts in catching up with communicating complex health messages that are relevant to our communities through effective tools that empower the public," she said.

CCHM is one of eight reports being presented at WISH 2015 where leading international health experts and policy makers are discussing innovative solutions to some of the most pressing global health challenges. 

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