USAID Romania Family Health Initiative Romania Family Health Initiative

RFHI Avian Influenza Component (2005-2006)

Context · Main Activities · Key Results

Context

In 2005 and 2006 Romania faced two outbreaks of avian flu among birds, found in both the wild bird population, as well as in some domestic poultry flocks. Although no human cases were identified, under the current worldwide circumstances, and due to the fact that the Danube Delta represents a major natural reservoir of migratory birds, strong preparedness and intervention strategies were required at all levels.

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Main Activities

JSI R&T provided technical assistance primarily in policy and legislation (by developing a national plan of action), training of key professionals across the relevant sectors, and increasing public awareness through the provision correct information and education.

Regarding policy and legislation, efforts focused on bringing together representatives from institutions in Romania with roles in a disaster situation —particularly in an influenza pandemic— to facilitate consensus building at the policy and strategic level. The team conducted an initial assessment and shared conclusions with key stakeholders, focusing mainly on the need for multisectoral cooperation for a comprehensive, sensitive, and quick response.

As avian influenza represented a relatively new area in Romania, strengthening the capacity of professionals from the health and veterinary sectors was a priority. As the influenza surveillance system is sentinel-based in Romania, the training efforts focused mainly in sentinel districts.

Professionals from key medical disciplines attended interactive seminars and workshops aimed at increasing knowledge around avian flu, understanding their roles and responsibilities in the national influenza surveillance system, and preparing them for a better response in the case of a pandemic. To create effective partnerships at the local level, epidemiologists and specialists in veterinary medicine were trained together. Trained personnel received masks and gloves; the program procured 60,000 masks and 10,000 latex gloves. The US also donated personal protective equipment (PPEs) and the project distributed 2,250 brochures on how to use the PPEs.

For other specialties, the group recommended a national approach, especially for the media, due to their ability to convey timely information to the population. However, they lacked accurate communicable disease information in general, and avian influenza facts, in particular. Therefore, the program and health communication leaders held interactive briefings with national and local media. A total of 760 staff from various health specialties and non-health domains benefited from these briefings.

When avian influenza outbreaks occurred, public information represented a challenging domain, as it was crucial to disseminate correct information to the population in a timely and nonthreatening manner. RFHI designed, produced and distributed an impressive amount of printed materials (140,000 posters, 90,000 stickers, 90,000 brochures for teachers, 940,000 flyers and an additional 15,000 flyers in Hungarian) for use in small group sessions in schools, mayors' offices, airports, buses, and other public places. During summer 2006, a caravan with a puppetshow offered an entertaining and interactive approach to providing correct information to 3,500 children and 551 adults from 80 villages in eight districts.

In addition, the program conducted a KAP study of the general population aged 15-60 in rural areas in summer 2007, as well as a qualitative study of those who had participated in IEC activities. Based on the conclusion that the population generally lacked basic correct information on preventing respiratory infectious diseases, the program designed an information campaign for the 2007-2008 flu season. Family doctors, district health authorities, hospitals, mayors' offices and MOPH personnel distributed 27,500 stickers, 80,000 brochures, and 35,000 fever cards and independently conducted information sessions with the population.

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Key Results

  • MOPH committed to and led the process to design an Avian Influenza National Preparedness Plan
  • 760 professionals in both health and non-health domains trained to respond
  • 3,500 children and 551 adults educated through innovative puppet show
  • MOPH personnel committed to conducting information sessions using JSI-produced information and education materials

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