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    Building trust in immunization: partnering with religious leaders and groups.


    New York, New York, UNICEF, 2004 May. 36 p.

    Whether immunizing children house-to-house or providing services at fixed sites, the support of the community is essential in achieving broad coverage. One way of eliciting such support is to gain the trust and confidence of religious leaders, who often wield tremendous authority at the grass roots. Religious leaders not only have the power to shape public opinion, they can also mobilize their constituencies and improve the links between communities and health services. By approaching religious groups with an informed respect for their views, communication and health officers can often gain the trust needed to garner their support. However, even with strong alliances, vocal minorities have sometimes used religious arguments to dissuade parents from immunizing their children. Such resistance may be tied to a political agenda or based on a misunderstanding of the facts. Whatever the case, UNICEF, among other agencies, is often a key player in developing an appropriate response. Allies among religious organizations can be crucial collaborators in reacting in an appropriate and effective way. The guidelines presented in this workbook were created for communication and programme officers and their immunization partners seeking to develop and maintain strong working relationships with religious leaders and groups. They also suggest what actions might be taken when a religious leader or group organizes resistance to immunization. While the guidelines provide an overall framework, they do not offer specific health messages based on religious texts. Such messages should be generated at the local level by religious groups themselves, since interpretation of doctrine can be influenced by culture and social conditions and may vary among religious sects. In fact, the very process of debate and arriving at a common position on immunization is what can ensure long-term involvement on the part of religious groups. (excerpt)
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