Wednesday,20 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1392, (3 - 9 May 2018)
Wednesday,20 February, 2019
Issue 1392, (3 - 9 May 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Information in a booster shot

Mai Samih finds out more about videos that are helping to raise popular health awareness in Egyptian colloquial Arabic

Ramzi in Fel3dal
Al-Ahram Weekly

Four years ago, a young Egyptian doctor decided it was time that Egyptian society dropped its long-held misconceptions about medicine. He started a YouTube channel called Fel3dal (intramuscular), a term used for injections in Egyptian colloquial Arabic.

 “We used to work on medical campaigns and do medical check-ups for people across Egypt, but the problem always was one of raising awareness of health issues in the wider population. People have little general awareness of health issues. As a result, we looked into ways of raising awareness and the growing role of social media. The idea was to present health information on social media in accessible form such that we could easily reach people through it. Then we decided to make short videos that convey quick messages that can be accessed on mobiles and through the Internet,” Dr Ahmed Ramzi, founder of the Fel3dal YouTube channel, said.

“We started the channel in 2014 as a small group made up of my wife and I and a group of friends. Then volunteers and colleagues started to join, and now the number of volunteers has reached 75, not only from medical schools, but also from other faculties who assist us in the video recording,” he added.

Ramzi comments on the unusual name of the channel. “We chose the name as many people see doctors as being connected to intramuscular injections as effective cures for disease. Our aim is to present a quick, short video, limited in content, but conveying a concentrated piece of information, to the audience. It may be painful, since it has a point to make in correcting ideas that people may have held for years, but they will benefit from it in the end. The videos are a bit like injections, in fact,” he said.

The language used is Egyptian colloquial Arabic since the videos are designed to target the widest possible audience. The information needs to be conveyed in the simplest way. “A stay-at-home mother can find out how to deal with emergencies that could happen to her children, for example. We present basic information necessary for daily life. We also use light comedy to make the videos pleasant and simple viewing,” Ramzi said. 

The content of the videos is always related to medical awareness, including how to deal with cases of emergency, infectious disease, ways infection can happen and how to prevent it, healthy eating, nutrition and common mistakes, and so on. The videos also try to correct false information, rumours, and mistakes that people might make and that can be spread on social media.

 “People might think they are raising awareness by sharing untrue posts or messages on Facebook, but they may actually be spreading rumours and misconceptions that have no scientific grounds. We try to correct such information to fight misconceptions and myths that can go around easily on social media,” Ramzi said.

The videos originally targeted families, but now they have special episodes for each member of a family, addressing mothers, young people, and sometimes also husbands and wives. There is no particular segment they concentrate on, and the information that is published or even the episodes themselves go through long processes of revision.



“There should be an expert in the field behind each video. For example, when I was talking about depression we consulted professor Mona Mokhtar of Ain Shams University in Cairo who is a professor of psychology and an expert in the field. She was present during the shooting of the video and she revised the whole script before we started to film,” Ramzi said, adding that this process is repeated for every episode. 

The majority of the volunteers who work on the site are either doctors or students of medicine, dentistry and pharmacy. The sources they use are either recognised medical textbooks or Websites like that of the UN World Health Organisation or the US Centre for Disease Control.

“I present the videos, but there is always a large team behind each, writing the scripts, preparing the scientific content, adding illustrations, and so on. Then comes the role of the team that works on editing and montage,” Ramzi said. Over 130 videos have so far been posted. “We are supposed to post a video every Thursday, but we haven’t always done so for technical reasons like re-organising a team or when team members were busy,” he said.

The video teams have taken part in many events, including Egyptian Science Week in March this year. They also organise lectures in different universities, schools or public libraries, for example on first aid, and they organise events related to cancer, infectious diseases, and the prevention of infections. They even go on convoys from house to house and to mosques and youth centres and other places.

One of the biggest barriers they face is “that many people believe in rumours and superstitions more than in science. So sometimes when we talk to people and try to raise their awareness we are faced with resistance because false ideas may have been held for years and inherited from one generation to another. We sometimes have bureaucratic problems in the places we want to work in, but we can usually overcome these with time and experience,” Ramzi said.       

“The more the channel spreads and is popular with people, the more organised we have become. This makes problems easier to solve, especially those related to red tape. This is especially the case if the team in question is organised and has an administrative and legal umbrella like an NGO,” he said. They deal with government institutions as well as NGOs, and all the videos are available on the Internet. 

“Today, we are trying to post videos every week like we used to. We want to redesign the website and change the method of displaying the videos to make access to them easier. These are our current priorities,” Ramzi concluded. 

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