Shillong: Learning how to deal with the COVID-19 and trying to bring a behavioural change among the citizens of Meghalaya is the new government strategy amid relaxations made in the state.
In an interview, commissioner and secretary, health department, Sampath Kumar explained how his team has come up with the Behaviour Change Model, based on a concept called ‘Changing Locust of Control’.
“We have to educate our people that one can be asymptomatic unless tested. But testing has to be done continuously then only we will be able to figure out and say whether the person is positive or negative. It is not possible to test every citizen unless we come up with some new technology or instrument. Since it is not there, it is essential for us to bring this behaviour change among everyone,” explains Kumar.
“When a person knows that they can potentially be asymptomatic and unknowingly infect others, they will be more responsible. They will start wearing their masks, especially when near older people. So every individual will begin taking precautions, we will see a behaviour change; hence it is called Behaviour Change Model,” explains Kumar
The model is aimed at citizen participation in containing COVID-19. Implementing this model will require training.
“So now we are organising this individualised training to everyone and also giving them tools, and designed some checklist. The checklist will help people understand whether one is following the protocols. We hope this will be beneficial because this is the way we will be able to build the capacity of the community to handle COVID without fear but at the same time with utmost responsibility,” added Kumar.
But how effective will this model be? Since social distancing has gone for a toss, especially in the markets.
Kumar explains that new norms asking people to maintain physical, social distance, hand hygiene and wear masks, are announced as a protocol in an epidemic. But that has a limitation, and requires bringing that change from within. “We aim to reach out to every household by the end of this month. This will be a continuous process, and we know that behaviour change will not happen overnight,” said Kumar.
Kumar said that in a study, public health professionals observed people wearing masks in public, but the majority were not wearing them correctly. Hence the need for training.
Individualised training will be given to all the citizens of Meghalaya.
“They will be divided into three groups. High-risk group of the elderly; there are around 6 Lakh people in this category. People with comorbidity and finally the mobile group, who need to step out of their house. They will all be trained on how to conduct themselves when they are at their workspace,” said Kumar.
Kumar also added that a meeting was conducted with deputy commissioners’ of different districts, and a decision was taken to form Behaviour Change Management Committees. He said that even though protocols are in place, the aim is to work on a new strategy, which also has a more significant impact and that is to encourage people to follow a good practice.