Description of your work
As a Veterinary Medicine (DVM) Student of the University of Ghana entering her clinical years, I have participated in my share of rabies eradication programs and projects throughout my studentship. My observation, however, is that in preparation for, and at most of these events, the only people you might observe talking about the event are the educators, and the immediate education recipients. But sample a random population in Ghana, and very few of them might have some knowledge on how to prevent dog bites and rabies. I want to change the narrative, and successfully mass educate the entire Ghanaian populace without getting any of them into the same room as me. How do I do that? I decided to marry mass media and rabies education in.
My journey to making an impact across the nation began when I participated in Ghana's Most Beautiful, the most widely watched national pageant. I recognized the incredible platform this competition offered and decided to use it as a vehicle to raise awareness about rabies. Over the course of 13 weeks (July to October 2022), I skillfully weaved rabies education into every facet of my participation, reaching a nationwide audience through the airwaves of TV3 Ghana. The pinnacle of this journey was the competition's finale at the Ghana National Theatre in October 2022. There, I delivered a poignant stage performance that not only earned me the 1st runner-up position but also served as an educational masterpiece nationwide. I used this platform to educate the nation in an unconventional way about the symptoms, treatments, and potential health hazards of rabies. This competition propelled me into instant mini stardom; however, my commitment didn't stop at the competition's end. I established the Aiko Adade Foundation. I recruited a team of volunteers to continue to amplify my vision of liberation through education. I have been able to propel the vision through radio interviews on prominent stations in my region, the Oti Region. These interviews reached audiences throughout the Oti Region and beyond, ensuring that the message of rabies prevention continued to spread not just to the masses, but also in core and vulnerable communities in my region.
Not just on radio stations in my at-risk region, I have also continued mass education mostly in video form on TV and differing social media platforms. I once took a dog on a set for a Ladies Circle episode on TV3 Ghana to talk about rabies! This was for no other reason than to get public interest in the education I was about to give on rabies. At Ghana’s biggest award night, the Ghana Music Awards, I had the privilege of talking about rabies for my red-carpet interview. Other interviews at various television stations have also granted me the opportunity. Recognizing the importance of reaching the younger generation, I personally visited numerous basic schools in the Oti Region to deepen awareness, leveraging my public influence as a beauty queen. I visited and educated students in schools where my aim was to empower and educate young minds about rabies prevention. I leveraged the Easter holiday to deepen the education at Akpafu Odomi’s Rice Festival Homecoming public gathering. A gathering with over 2,000 attendees. I was given the platform to carry out thorough education on rabies. Over the year under review, I have used my influence as a public figure to receive the best attention in my bid to educate my constituents about Rabies. I wanted a way to make the most use of my audience without relying on external interviews. I birthed the idea of a social media series geared towards World Rabies Day to help educate the public on 8 tips to prevent Dog Bites and Rabies, all before September 28th. This series is affectionately called the #TeacherBanzAiko series, where I steal 1 minute and 30 seconds out of the 3 hours and 15 minutes that people spend scrolling in a day to educate on a specific tip that will keep people safe from dog bites and rabies. The foundation was a part of the launch of the National Rabies Prevention Campaign earlier this year, and is also heavily involved in the planning and execution of the National World Rabies Day events, hosted by national stakeholders, which are going to be a press conference in Accra as well as a national WRD event happening in my region of focus, the Oti Region. These events seek to educate the masses, as well as educate and vaccinate the people in the at-risk community of New Ayoma. My efforts have been recognized nationally, and I am now honored to hold the title of Ghana Rabies Prevention Ambassador, awarded by the Veterinary Service Directorate (VSD) of Ghana. I have also been nominated for a Ghana 40 under 40 Award in the category of Health and Wellness.
Impact in numbers
• Audience Reach: In 2022, my participation in Ghana's Most Beautiful television show and subsequent radio interviews reached over 2 million viewers and listeners across Ghana.
• School Visits: Across 2022 and 2023, I personally educated students in over eleven schools across three regions of Ghana, educating more than 5,000 students on the best measures to prevent dog bites and rabies, using flyers and posters from Breakthrough Action.
• Video Series: My social media #TeacherBanzAiko series which educates my audience on rabies prevention essentials, since 1st September 2023, has 18,961 plays across Instagram and Facebook as of 17th September 2023 at 0600GMT.
• Vaccinations: In the Oti Region in April 2023, The Aiko Adade Foundation has vaccinated 120 dogs in the Akpafu Odomi and Jasikan areas. This was done to cement our in-person education effort in those areas.
Our impact has been felt in a manner that is quite unconventional to our traditional modes of rabies awareness propagation in Ghana. The foundation’s utilization of mass media channels like social media, television and radio through a celebrity face has helped make our message more relevant and accepted. A lot more people have learnt how they can improve their relationship with dogs to reduce bite incidence. Our efforts also do not just focus on education against rabies, but also on education on animal welfare. Hence, we have helped Ghanaians develop better relationships with their pets, who typically end up foraging for food and water like stray dogs and are more likely to propagate rabies in such conditions.
• Reduced Bite Incidence: Through our relentless efforts in rabies education and vaccination campaigns, zero bite incidence has been recorded in the town of Akpafu Odomi (Aiko Adade's hometown) since our physical social mobilization campaign in April 2023. More people are now aware of the importance of rabies prevention, resulting in fewer incidents of dog bites across the region.
• Fewer Reports of Rabid Animals: The region has witnessed a decrease in reports of rabid animals, a direct result of the vaccination campaigns that have targeted the dog population, reducing the spread of the rabies virus.
• Improved Community Relationships: My work has fostered better relationships between communities and their pets. In Akpafu Odomi now, dogs without supervision are kept fenced in their homes to reduce the incidence of possible accidents. People are now more conscious of responsible pet ownership, leading to a safer and more harmonious coexistence.
• Support from Local Authorities: My advocacy has garnered increased support from local authorities and civil society. Initially, our work started out as a solo mission, but these agencies started to buy into the foundation’s strategy. Breakthrough Action initially provided us with our educational material and the Accra Veterinary Laboratory provided all our vaccination equipment for our very first public sensitization and vaccination campaign. We are currently working with all these stakeholders and more to organize a World Rabies Day press briefing in Accra, Ghana’s capital, as well as Ghana’s National Rabies Day Celebration on September 28th in the Oti Region!
One of the biggest benefits that comes with the use of unconventional media is the reduced cost and logistics when compared with physical visits to at-risk communities (transportation, accommodation, feeding, local volunteer team mobilization, distribution of educational materials, etc.). Unfortunately, these visits are still very much essential to get the rabies prevention message to the people who need it the most; young people under the age of 15, and people who might not be aware that they have been exposed. This is why the World Rabies Day Awards will go a long way to boost our education efforts in these communities, as well as boost our mass media education efforts.
Share a personal experience
I began working on rabies mainly due to my studentship in veterinary school, but my work was amplified after a four year old close to my family died of the disease and I felt responsible for never being able to educate them. She got bitten by a puppy, and so her parents brushed it off, a decision that haunted them four months later. Now, I work on rabies education so that persons at risk get the information they need to keep themselves away from bites, and pet owners ensure that their pets are vaccinated.
1. Breakthrough Action
2. The Ghana Veterinary Services Directorate (VSD)
3. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization
4. The Ghana Health Service
5. Local Government
6. The Environmental Protection Agency
7. The Accra Veterinary Laboratory (AVL)
8. The Office of the Oti Regional Minister
9. The Regional and Municipal Veterinary Offices in Oti Region
10. Lemla Veterinary Services
11. TV3 Ghana
12. ShoBiz TV
13. The Ghana Institute of Journalism Coalition in the Oti Region
14. Distribution Direct
*Information adapted from nomination form submitted.