Srinagar, Aug 29: The awareness campaigns launched by the government for the mitigation of Covid-19 have proved successful in Kashmir, but the acquired knowledge has not found a proportionate realistic transcription that would reflect in positive attitudes, a study has revealed.
The online study published this month in “The Indian Journal of Psychiatry”, a quarterly peer-reviewed open-access medical journal was carried out for the initial phase of Covid in Kashmir.
“It gives an insight into the initial response of the people of Kashmir toward the pandemic and the various intervention policies adopted to control it at that time,” the study said.
“Scores of the participants suggested that awareness campaigns have been reasonably successful with this sample section of population in Kashmir, but the acquired knowledge has not found proportionate realistic transcription that would reflect in positive attitudes,” it said.
The study was conducted by Bushra Syed Imtiyaz, Chahat Jamwal, Arshad Hussain, Fazle Roub, Rabbanie Tariq, Imran Qayoom, Juvaria Syed and Mahvish Renzu.
It said that it can be inferred that this gap could have emerged due to communication barriers or spurious or insufficient pragmatic understanding of the disseminated information.
“‘One size fits all’ policy is likely to not work in Kashmir as population has been under lockdown for over two years now.
“Public compliance depends upon feasibility, perceived risks, and perceived effectiveness of the proposed action,” suggests the study.
This was a descriptive cross-sectional study, and was conducted between March 28 and April 5, 2020, in the valley shortly after the announcement of a nationwide lockdown.
It said for the promotion of precautionary behavior in a specific target population, their peculiar socio-cultural, economic, and psychological aspects have to be assessed and considered to develop a locally adapted approach to ensure feasibility and effectiveness.
The survey was generated using Google Forms which are available to users free of cost and can be conveniently accessed using a smartphone.
Boosting public morale
The study said that information dissemination regarding COVID-19 should be sensitively and responsibly approached in order to limit harm to public.
“Alongside factual and precautionary guidelines, positive news about recoveries and the strong collective efforts underway to overcome this disaster should also be highlighted to boost public morale and reduce panic,” it said.
The study also found that praying and humor were the most common coping strategies adopted by the participants to cope during the crisis.
Kashmiri communities have always been well connected. During the pandemic majority of the communication with neighbors was restricted to telephonic conversations.
The study revealed that there was presence of some negative attitudes in respondents like tendency to conceal history of infection, pessimism toward implementation of control measures, and certain stigmatized views regarding the disease.
“While these attitudes may be indicative of misinformation and faulty beliefs in community, concealing history of exposure might be done willfully by some people to avoid stigma and escape inconvenience and lengthy quarantine periods,” the study noted.
Daraev kin darbar:
Interestingly, 11% of the participants said that they conversed with neighbors from their windows, a tradition repopularized by the Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences using the social media hashtag trend “Daraev kin darbar” (Kashmiri for window-to-window conversation).
A small percentage of participants engaged in evening walks or meetings at local shops.
“This practice has been conventionally followed to maintain communication in Kashmir during periods of curfews. For successful physical distancing, people need to differentiate between the nature and emergency behind Covid lockdown as opposed to the past curfews,” it said.
The studied section of the population was expected to have better access to information which ideally should have been translated into proportionately positive practices and attitudes
Lastly, the researchers suggest that large scale, community-based studies assessing public knowledge and practices should be conducted in different phases of the outbreak in order to guide the effective formulation of prevention and control policies as the pandemic evolves.
Media usage in participants:
Social media (70%) and television (20%) were the two most preferred sources of information on COVID-19 among the participants.
The study results said only 10% of them turned to radio or other sources like e-newspapers.
“From an individual viewpoint, 70% of the respondents believed that COVID-19 is an infectious disease, 25% thought of it to be a curse from God, and the remaining 5% felt that it was an international conspiracy,” the study said.
Majority of the study population (65%) reported engaging in religious activities post lockdown to deal with the situation while 25% said that they shared jokes and humorous content with friends and family for the same, and 10% felt that they “could not deal with the crisis.”
“Communication with neighbors was maintained via telephone by 71%, 11% engaged in window-to-window conversations with neighbors, and 8% of the study population caught up with their neighbors by having group chats at local shops or going for group walks in the evening,” it said.
However, 10% of the participants did not communicate with their neighbors at all.