Behavioural Change Needed to Halt the Spread of Viral Illness

A Public Health Research Team from The UWI Cave Hill Campus has highlighted the need for behavioural change in order to contain the spread of COVID-19 in Barbados.

Their recommendation is contained in a publication entitled ‘Modelling and Public Health Interventions: Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions to disrupt transmission of COVID-19 in Barbados’.

The team comprised researchers Prof. Ian Hambleton and Doctors Madhuvanti Murphy, Kim Quimby, Christina Howitt, Natasha Sobers of the George Alleyne Chronic Disease Research Centre, as well as Doctors Heather Harewood and Natalie Greaves from the Faculty of Medical Sciences.

The document seeks to provide definitions and recommendations for non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) aimed at reducing the severity of healthcare system impact of the virus by disrupting transmission. It is a good companion document to any COVID-19 modelling.

“It is important to note that models are based on assumptions and present both the worst and best case scenarios (no intervention vs. NPI measures or vaccine).

“In order to have moderate disruption (up to 75 percent) of disease achieved, a range of NPIs will need to be quickly implemented towards suppression with repeated implementation,” the research team said.

The researchers added that NPIs are based on behaviour change and generally have a low compliance. However they can be improved by strategies suited to the local social, economic and cultural context.

Among the recommendations for NPI strategies for COVID-19 are increased testing and surveillance; information, education and communication; limiting mass gatherings; community containment, and maintaining social distancing particularly for individuals over age 70.

They also noted that further considerations for effective NPI use are the existence of policy and legislative support, as well as the availability of outputs from active and passive surveillance systems to monitor and guide public health measures.

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