ASEAN Dengue Day: Running for dengue awareness
Greater public awareness is critical to combatting Dengue, one of the fastest growing infectious diseases in the world with the Asia-Pacific region bearing some 75% of the global burden. So in 2011, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations established ASEAN Dengue Day, a region-wide advocacy event held on June 15 each year to demonstrate a commitment to the cause.
Break Dengue sat down with Dr. Hoang Quoc Cuong, the vice director of the training center of the Pasteur Institute in Ho Chi Minh City and organizer of the very first ASEAN Dengue Run, held in the Dong Thap Province of Vietnam as part of ASEAN Dengue Day this year. See what he has to say.
ASEAN Dengue Day is now in its fourth year, but this is the first Run?
First of many I hope. Since ASEAN and the World Health Organization (WHO) chose June 15 as ASEAN Dengue Day, we have held an annual regional meeting in one of the member countries, but organizing the run gives a tremendous boost to the main goal of raising public awareness. This is especially important in southern Vietnam, where the number of dengue cases has nearly doubled in the past five years, resulting in a significant number of deaths.
Since ASEAN and the World Health Organization (WHO) chose June 15 as ASEAN Dengue Day, we have held an annual regional meeting in one of the member countries, but organizing the run gives a tremendous boost to the main goal of raising public awareness. This is especially important in southern Vietnam, where the number of dengue cases has nearly doubled in the past five years, resulting in a significant number of deaths.
How many people took part?
It was a great turnout. As it is just a “fun run” of just 3 kilometers, more than 5,000 people were able to take join. Even the Deputy Health Minister, Nugyen Thanh Long was there. Most of the competitors were from the Dong Thap Province and included students from the University of Dong Thap and the medical college, as well as people from the young union, the police force and the army. Dengue Day was a Sunday this year, so we also saw many local people take part, running alongside representatives from other provinces.
So you count it as a success?
Oh yes, we want to keep the run as an annual event because it really brings dengue control and prevention home to people in the heart of the community. Our most important achievement was to spread the message that each family should spend at least 10 minutes each week killing larvae and mosquitoes. We hope to make it even bigger next year. Perhaps we’ll see 10,000 people take part!
How did you promote the event?
We hosted a press conference a week before the run at the Pasteur Institute, which attracted more than 50 journalists from all over the country. We also have a Facebook page with over 5,000 likes already. I think social media can be the most important marketing channel for this kind of event.
Are you winning the war against dengue in Vietnam?
I’ve worked in dengue prevention for more than five years. From my personal experience, dengue control is very difficult in southern Vietnam, and the vector control program in place over the past 50 years has seen very limited success. The most important factor is the communication strategy. Communication and education need to be used ahead of other control measures, especially in Vietnam. Then, perhaps, we could start thinking about applying legal measures to reduce larvae and mosquito density in the community, like the laws aimed at reducing tobacco use.
Does working together with other regions affected by dengue benefit the project?
I personally think that the war against dengue needs to involve all affected countries, targeting all generations on both a regional and global scale. We need to make as much of a social impact as possible.
Are there any new initiatives being used to spread awareness?
Yes, we plan to create more initiatives together with Sanofi Pasteur to combat dengue in this country and other ASEAN countries and we are also calling for more support from other agencies and resources.