THE PROBLEM IN ONE WORD: “MISCONCEPTIONS”
Despite the lack of evidence linking vaccines with autism, multiple sclerosis, and neurological disorders, more than 40% of the French disagree that vaccines are safe as the 2016 Schools Vaccine Confidence Project showed. The 2017 European Court of Justice ruling, which stated that judges can consider whether a vaccination has led to a medical condition even if there is no supporting scientific evidence, will make preventable-disease endeavours even more challenging particularly among vaccine-hesitant communities. Regretfully, vaccine communication and advocacy measures to date are not as they should be. Messages are not reaching the hearts and minds of those questioning vaccines safety and efficacy. It is therefore ever more urgent to correct the public misconceptions about the science behind vaccines and viral diseases.
THE EXIT IN TWO WORDS: “TRUST & UNDERSTANDING”
One major question is what makes parents more trusting of one physician over another? The answer is simply parents are more likely to trust those who speak to their hearts and minds simultaneously. The anti-vaccination phenomenon has been and will continue to inflict a huge “emotional epidemiology” cost requiring not only more effort quantitatively, but also more skill and qualifications to handle.
Immunology and molecular (micro)biology are difficult-to-understand topics even for many physicians and health educators. In addition, professional immunologists and vaccinologists in the academic and industrial sectors are generally lacking a simpler language to explain the complexity of the immune system and infectious disease to the lay community.
FOCUSED ON UNDERSTANDING: WHAT MODELS WORK, WHAT DOESN’T?
Voluntarily, our team conducted a survey to find out the best model that could improve the public’s health/science literacy, engagement, and understanding. Expectedly, our data show in the following order that animations (38%), illustrated stories (36%), info-graphics (16%), then games (9%) were the most appealing learning models. The appeal of textbooks and newsletters was less than 1%. We also observed, in contrast to digital models, illustrated books gently introduced the readers to complex vocabulary and afforded a prime opportunity for stimulated self-learning. In another words, illustrated books helped build health/medical literacy. Moreover, illustrated books stimulated critical thinking in children and younger learners, who will be the parents of tomorrow.
If we were seriously aligning ourselves to the SDG2030 agenda, conservative educational health systems would seek ways to effectively integrate novel and innovative approaches into public life. Health systems would also have to evaluate robustly whether these models would generate a more impactful and lasting interest in and engagement with medicine and science among the public.