Municipal partnership makes a difference in the fight against Corona

Knowledge and working methods developed from the cooperation between Region Västerbotten and Yogyakarta are today being used to communicate regarding Covid-19 in Indonesia.

– It is fantastic to see how ICLD’s international municipal partnerships contribute to the global fight against the spread of viruses, says Johan Lilja, secretary general of ICLD.

Since 2013, the Västerbotten Region and the Yogyakarta City Health Authority, within the framework of their municipal partnership, have worked together to develop and evaluate a cross-sectoral working model to combat infectious diseases. The Department of Biomedical Engineering – Research & Development at University Hospital of Umeå, , the Public Health Unit and Centre for Rural Medicine in Region Västerbotten have been involved in the collaboration.

The collaboration has had dengue fever as a model, but the strategies that have been developed can be generalized to the most infectious disease. This has now been proven by the Yogyakarta partner who, from day one of the Corona crisis, has chosen to adapt the tools to support communication and coordination of efforts to prevent the spread of infection by Covid-19.

Since 2013, the Västerbotten Region and the Yogyakarta City Health Authority, within the framework of their municipal partnership, have worked together to develop and evaluate a cross-sectoral working model to combat infectious diseases. This picture is from one of the meetings. Photo: Åsa Holmner

Geographic information systems

One of the key components of the project is geographical information systems that provide a better overview of the current health situation and the measures that are implemented in the immediate area. In order to quality assure the information that is used as a decision basis, the project has conducted a large number of studies of the system behind the statistics, for example the routines in hospitals that form the basis for reporting disease data.

An important task has also been to identify when, where and how citizens want health risks to be communicated in order to receive expected benefits. Thus, throughout the project period, citizens have been involved in designing the working model. The latest addition is a survey of young people’s preferences for how health risks should be communicated, a study that may be repeated in Sweden.

Local and up-to-date information on the risk of infection

This particular aspect of risk communication, how it should be designed and communicated to specific target groups to benefit, is often ignored when it comes to major health risks.

– In infectious diseases, great focus is placed on disease prognosis and global or national strategies to reduce the spread of infection, but it is people like you and me who have to change our behaviours, says Åsa Holmner, one of the three project managers at Region Västerbotten.

– If we as individuals do not get the right conditions, such as access to local and up-to-date information on the risk of infection and knowledge that gives us motivation to protect ourselves, then such strategies have very little significance, ”says Åsa Holmner.

The transferability of the project’s results and experiences to Swedish conditions has been discussed from the start, but how this should be done and which organization (s) would be the recipient is not clear. The division of responsibilities and work between authorities and health care facilities in Indonesia looks different than in Sweden and in addition, the country has a completely different citizen involvement in public health work. Indonesia also has less stringent regulations on information security and privacy issues, which obviously affects what information can be shared. Despite this, there are opportunities to use the project’s results in Sweden as well.

– The collaboration has taught us a great deal about the conditions that today are a reality in the wake of the Corona crisis. It has not been quite clear which recipients of these experiences are within the organization. But with the ongoing crisis, where rapid decisions on changed working methods have been made and implemented on a wide scale, it shows that we have the capacity to mobilize in times of crisis. Maybe we can see our systems and working models in use in Sweden faster than we expect, says Åsa Holmner.

About the municipal partnership

The municipal partnership between Region Västerbotten and Yogyakarta City Government started in 2013 and has focused on strengthening the capacity to prevent and alleviate outbreaks of dengue fever. In close collaboration with local citizens, five three-year projects have been carried out focusing on information, communication and transparency. The initial projects were largely about improving citizens’ knowledge, attitudes and practices regarding dengue fever. The more recent projects have focused on increasing transparency in the health care system and developing early warning systems in case of outbreak of dengue fever. The early warning systems and risk communication concepts that have been developed have also been considered useful in the Västerbotten region. The cooperation, like all municipal partnerships, is funded by ICLD.