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WHO Goodwill Ambassador's Newsletter For The Elimination Of Leprosy

Media Campaign Promotes Awareness

Initiatives focus both on clinical symptoms and patient rights.

In July, Brazil's health ministry launched a 15-day nationwide campaign to control Hansen's disease. Under the slogan, “It's good to know about health!” the July 6-20 campaign was designed to educate the public about the disease and promote early diagnosis and treatment, particularly among adolescents under the age of 15.

As well as 15- and 30-second TV and radio spots that featured testimonials from people who once had the disease, the campaign also utilized a poster, a pamphlet and a handbook targeting health professionals, educators and media as well as the general public.

Appearing on the poster and pamphlet was Maria das Gracas, identified as someone who had been cured of Hansen's disease. The poster headline asked, “How do I know I have Hansen's disease?” while the body copy described symptoms and included a toll-free number at the ministry of health to call for further information.

 

One hundred telephone operators trained to answer basic questions about leprosy and with access to a database on the disease were standing by to take calls. Campaign materials also included the toll-free number for Telehansen, the telephone counselling service run by MORHAN.

Over 70 pages long, the colorfully illustrated handbook Hansen's Disease and Human Rights: Brazilian Unified Health System (SUS) User Rights and Responsibilities included sections on the rights of affected persons to treatment, reconstructive surgery, psychological support and rehabilitation, while also stressing their responsibilities, such as adhering to their treatment, conducting household contacts surveillance and practicing self-care to prevent disability. The ministry distributed 100,000 copies of the handbook, together with a further 2 million pamphlets with facts about the disease.

Campaign poster (top), cover and sample pages from handbook (center), and TV commercial (above)

The combination of a campaign to promote early diagnosis together with the publication of information on human rights emphasizes the government's commitment not only to reducing the number of new cases of Hansen's disease but also to ensuring that all those cured of the disease who suffer from impairment receive appropriate care.