Collaborative community engagement to develop targeted health messaging resources
Background Irish Travellers are an ethnic minority group who experience many social and health inequities. Travellers can live in a range of accommodation (e.g. standard housing or unofficial/official/temporary halting sites). Accommodation is often overcrowded and Census 2016 reported 39% of Travellers in Ireland are homeless. A recent hepatitis A outbreak at one site in Dublin highlighted onsite issues regarding pest infestation, poor sanitation, illegal dumping and burning of waste. Of particular concern is the burning of plastic and electrical cables to extract valuable copper. The 2021 WHO report on e-waste exposure documented the known adverse health effects of such burning, emphasising the disproportionate effects on children.
Methods In addition to meetings with the local authority, environmental health and local Traveller organisations to address onsite sanitation and waste issues, the local public health department convened a group to develop targeted health messaging. This comprised the Eastern Region Traveller Health Unit, including representatives from national Traveller and Roma non-governmental organisation Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre, local Traveller organisations/Primary Health Care Workers Projects and Health Service Executive social inclusion colleagues.
This group worked collaboratively to craft a leaflet encompassing five key public health messages, which would be easily understood and accessible to the Traveller Community. Traveller Primary Health Care Workers were key to this process and came up with the messaging slogan ‘Think twice before you put a match to it’.
An accompanying two-minute video suitable for dissemination on social media was scripted collaboratively by the group and voiced by a member of the Traveller Community. Filming took place at a Traveller accommodation site, a working fire station where a firefighter contributed fire safety advice and at a fire brigade training site where a fire was set for filming. Present on the day were the videographer, public health, firefighters, Pavee Point representative and Traveller Community members, including Traveller children who were filmed at an onsite play area.
Results Two health messaging resources were produced, a double-sided leaflet and a two-minute video, aimed at the Traveller Community and highlighting the health dangers of burning waste.
Conclusion This initiative involved public health engaging directly with Traveller organisations, incorporating in-reach activities, to facilitate the development of appropriate and acceptable health messaging information which utilised a range of appropriate media.
Direct collaborative communication forges links between Public Health and Traveller organisations fostering an enhanced mutual understanding and trust which can be built upon for future collaborative health and wellbeing initiatives
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