UP academic develops animated video series for COVID-19 awareness campaign

Posted on May 07, 2020

An academic from the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Pretoria (UP) has developed a series of animated videos that aim to educate the public about COVID-19, which has infected more than 3,5 million people globally and claimed the lives of more than 247 000.

Working in partnership with Gerhard Cruywagen of Greenhouse Cartoons, Professor Tessa Marcus of the Department of Family Medicine has created the UP COVID-19 Health is in Our Hands video series, which draws on the Faculty of Health Sciences’ wealth of educational, scientific and healthcare service expertise that extends to communities across the country. The video series is made possible through sponsorship from the University of Pretoria, AngloAmerican, the University of Leicester (UK) and generous private donations.  

“Once President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a 21-day lockdown on 23 March, the Department of Family Medicine initiated a daily virtual COVID-19 pandemic response meeting to plan ways to sustain essential primary healthcare at all the clinics and communities we work with,” Prof Marcus explained. “Drawing on our experience of creating competencies through learning, we created short scientifically informed, locally relevant videos.”


This is the first of several Health is in Our Hands video packages. The three videos in this package focus on how to wash our hands when necessary, and what to expect and do if we contract COVID-19. Each video is less than two minutes long and has been made for easy distribution and viewing on cell phones. They will be issued in five languages: English, isiZulu, isiXhosa, Sepedi and Afrikaans.

“Using the best available science, the videos are intended to help everyone understand the critical role they can play in preventing and containing the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease,” said Prof Marcus.

The video content is a response to the unfolding demands of our local context, including the need to be proactive in the face of escalating rates of infection and their socioeconomic impacts, she added.

The series also take into account the requirements of healthcare workers and professionals, as well as that of groups that are particularly vulnerable to acute respiratory infection due to age, the presence of one or more conditions (especially HIV, TB, diabetes, hypertension and any immunosuppressing condition or therapy), migration, homelessness and extreme poverty.

Prof Marcus said the community response to the videos has been “very positive”.

The faculty is involved in at least 30 COVID-19-related projects, which include research collaborations as well as the establishment of the UP Tshwane COVID-19 Care Helpline – the toll-free number is 0800 611 197. This is serviced by doctors and registrars from UP. Staff teach students; support the provision of services in the public health care system in hospitals, clinics and communities; conduct research; and contribute to municipal, provincial and national policy formulation and implementation.

“Information is key, and we need action!” said Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences Professor Tiaan de Jager. “These videos are the result of a great partnership, using the knowledge and expertise of academics with a lot of primary health care experience.”

- Author Primarashni Gower

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