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Changing Behavior In Haiti To Prevent Cholera Poses Challenges

Noting that several organizations recently have closed or consolidated their cholera treatment centers in Haiti, Jason Hayes with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting writes in an opinion analysis in the Huffington Post Blog, “In order to stop cholera, a water-borne illness, you need to change the ways people interact with water. It is no easy task.” Despite massive education campaigns to distribute information on how to prevent cholera, including hand washing and water treatment, and reports showing that “Haitians hungrily internalized the information,” “there is often an appalling gap between knowledge and action,” and the number of cases began to rise again in the early summer of 2011.

“Did Haitians lack the resources necessary to wash their hands, defecate in the right places, and drink treated water, or were they choosing not to do so? The answer, in many places, is both,” Hayes writes. “In public health, the disciplines of social and behavioral sciences attempt to vivisect the relationship between programs and their acceptance in communities,” he says, adding, “The goal is to accurately chart every factor that will influence behavioral change.” Hayes states that Haitian government agencies “are working to create infrastructure that will protect people from disease, but it will be a long time before the pipes reach” rural areas. “Until then, the burden of healthy behaviors remains on the shoulders of individual Haitians, both those with the financial and logistical capacity to carry the weight — and those without,” he concludes (7/30).