During times of crisis, not only are country's administrative systems put to the test, but also their ability to maintain internal peace and harmony within their borders. In these times of trial, strong countries have succeeded in managing the crisis thanks to their administrative capacity, unity and solidarity. Fortunately for Turkey, the country faced the coronavirus pandemic with its new and effective presidential system. In this column, I would like to examine the issue of health communication in the context of Turkey’s national struggle against the coronavirus pandemic.
Improvement of Turkey’s health system has always been one of the priorities in the political agenda of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) governments. Numerous surveys conducted by the GENAR research institute demonstrate that a great majority of the Turkish public fervently support state investments in the fields of health and transportation. Regarding Turkey’s health sector, the AK Party-led government succeeded in providing easy access to health services and medicine, an encompassing social security system and dynamic management of public and private hospitals, including the hospitals of universities and the Social Insurance Institution. Today, Turkey’s health system has emerged as one of the leading and most well-functioning health systems in the world.
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has come to the forefront of crisis management. Providing effective, continuous and transparent communication with the people, Koca won the confidence of the nation as an effective leader in Turkey’s struggle against the coronavirus pandemic. His Twitter account has rapidly become one the most popular accounts in the country. His public statements and warnings have been taken seriously by the public. Koca’s effective leadership continues to manage the crisis successfully thanks to Turkey’s army of health care providers and the AK Party governments’ investments in the health sector, including the building of public hospitals and the development of immense networks of supply and production infrastructure. Even before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the AK Party established science committees to prepare Turkey’s health system for potential epidemics and pandemics.
Turkey’s ongoing success in the management of the coronavirus pandemic also derives from the government’s ability to learn from the experience of other countries. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Turkey has been closely following the developments in other countries by analyzing both their mistakes and adequate policies. In addition, Turkey continues to share its own experience with other countries and the World Health Organization.
Regarding the issue of health communication during the pandemic, Turkey adopted both a cautious and transparent policy. The Ministry of Health provided the latest information on the number of cases and deaths related to the pandemic while abstaining from announcing the personal information of coronavirus patients. For a while, the Ministry of Health did not share the information of the spread of the coronavirus among cities to prevent public panic. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs brought thousands of Turkish citizens home from abroad.
"Stay home" is the main motto of the Ministry of Health, and it has rapidly been adopted by a great majority of the people. TV channels consulted with experts who informed the public responsibly by underlining the importance of the decisions made by the science committee. Research conducted two years ago demonstrated that only 16% of the people consulted the Ministry of Health about health issues. Today, a great majority of the people place their trust in the ministry and the science committee, which demonstrates the success of health communication during the coronavirus pandemic.