The insights of outsiders : investigating learner perceptions of the mass treatment campaign's communication strategy for Schistosomiasis prevention in Ugu District, South Africa.
Schistosomiaisis, commonly referred to as bilharzia is a neglected tropical parasitic water borne disease prevalent in developing countries and is endemic in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The World Health Organisation (WHO) aims to eliminate bilharzia as a public health problem by the year 2020 and as a measure to work towards this goal, the South African Department of Health (DoH) Ugu District, KwaZulu-Natal commenced a Mass Treatment Campaign (MTC) targeted at rural schools to decrease bilharzia infection intensity and prevalence levels. The DOH MTC utilises communication materials to communicate with stakeholders and the public to create awareness of the campaign and bilharzia. This study specifically explored the perceptions of learners towards the communication materials used by the DOH MTC to communicate with the learners in order to generate improvements for the current communication strategy. The ability of an individual to receive information is commonly impacted by the community, social networks and the environment and infrastructural settings of the community. The Social Ecological Model of Communication and Health Behaviour (SEMCHB) acknowledges that such factors may have an impact on how the individual receives information. The study utilises the broader social ecological perspective, and particularly the SEMCHB as a framework for understanding and exploring the perceptions of learners. The study made use qualitative data through focus group discussions, semi- structured interviews and participant observations to gain insights from learners. The study discovered that many incorrect perceptions about bilharzia still surround the learners. The perceived messages communicated through the DoH MTC still need to be communicated with learners, since some learners face challenges in understanding the preferred message. The encoding of the communicated messages through the poster, pamphlet and consent forms is influenced by the individuals social networks hence this study recommends that future communication message are designed with reference to the SEMCHB.