Health in the Backyard

In rural Viet Nam the relationships between farmers and their animals is close, with pigs and poultry often kept in vicinity of the houses. The recent history of serious zoonotic outbreaks of novel pathogens such as SARS, H5N1 and Nipah virus has raised awareness of the health risk of such close contact with animals.

Health in the Backyard is a community-led media project using digital story telling methods to explore the attitudes and perceptions of risk of communities involved in animal husbandry. The Health in the Backyard project supports the activities of the OUCRU research project on zoonotic diseases (Vietnam Initiative on Zoonotic Infections or VIZIONS) by engaging with rural communities involved in animal farming practices, and to improve communication between stakeholders and scientists. Started in 2012, OUCRU partnered with Dong Thap Departments for Health Communication (T4G) and Animal Health, to work with small-hold farmers, slaughterhouse workers and people involved with the rats for meat trade. In 2015-16 the Health in Backyard project is expanding to work with high risk communities in Ba Vi district (Hanoi) and Dak Lak province in the Central Highland of Vietnam.

OUCRU partnered with the media team from Fact and Fiction Films (FFF) to engage the communities in generating personal photo stories. Community members were taught how to use simple digital cameras which they took home to document risk through photography. Each created and narrated a short photo story of situations and events that pose a risk to their health, and their families and animals.

The finished films were screened for group review sessions, allowing individuals to discuss and share concerns and good practice. The group identified key areas of interest which informed the curriculum of training workshops for provincial animal health officers and local farmers (about 65 participants in each workshop). Topics chosen by the community included:

  • Vaccine schedule for pigs and poultry
  • Transmission of diseases between humans and animals
  • Good practices in farming (biogas, hygiene, home produced feed etc)
  • Pig and poultry diseases
  • Environmental issues in farming

The films and views shared through the Health in the Backyard project are informing scientists and health workers of perceptions and practices of the people they work with, which biomedical research does not reveal. It is also informing the writing of non-technical educational material on veterinary diseases and zoonotic health risks to be distributed through the VIZIONS project.