Image: Jan Persiel | Flickr

The Zika Virus outbreak in Brazil in 2015, and the related increase in children born with microcephaly, posed a number of challenges to the international community working in epidemic response. One of these has been to decipher the links between Zika and the variety of neurological deficits it causes. However, as Zika has moved out of the global public consciousness, the impacts on children affected by Zika and their families has often been overlooked. This article discusses a grassroots social media group set up by, and for, mothers attending a clinic for their Zika-affected children in Brazil. The messaging group, on the Whatsapp platform, was aptly named the ‘Super Mães Especiais’, or ‘Super Special Mums’, by the participants.

The grassroots, casual and community-led nature of the group chat has allowed it to become a source of not just support, but empowerment too, with mothers able to collectively encourage each other when facing challenges and emphasizing their capabilities to be advocates for their children's’ future. Furthermore, the group’s ability to quickly disseminate information amongst the mothers has reduced the workload of the medical professionals working in the clinic.

The Super Special Mums group demonstrates the value of social media beyond simply relaying information in response to a health crisis. It can provide emotional support to patients and help ensure continued engagement with treatment and, when patient-led, can be shaped to respond to the specific needs of that group. Read the full article here.

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