Image: UNMEER/Martine Perret | Flickr

In 2017, the Journal of Health Communication: International Perspectives published a special issue dedicated to the role of community engagement, communication, and social mobilisation during and after the response to the Ebola outbreak in 2014-15.

Since this outbreak, the UN Global Health Crises Take Force has stipulated that communities should be engaged in all activities related to serious public health events, including preparedness, detection, response, research, and prevention. Community engagement must therefore be seen as essential and ongoing; it cannot cease once a crisis has been resolved.

The articles in this special issue are relevant to a broad range of public health practitioners. Some of their observations and recommendations include:

  • Communities should be ‘regarded as experts in their own culture, and as sources of solutions and innovation’

  • ‘Communication is most effective when information is conveyed by individuals who are known and trusted by communities, and when communication channels encourage participatory dialogue’

  • Literacy, language, and access to technology should be taken into account when making efforts to reach marginalised or out-of-reach communities

“The engagement and inclusion of people, and of their communities, is a vital element of any public health strategy.” (Nabarro 2017)

Click here to access the full issue.

Click here to download the preface [PDF].

Click here to download the introduction [PDF].


A full list of articles in this supplement:

A Theory-Based Socio-ecological Model of Communication and Behaviour for The Containment of the Ebola Epidemic in Liberia (M. E. Figueroa) [PDF]  

Figueroa looks at the value of theory-based frameworks in outbreak situations, and argues that they are important tools for guiding research and designing health communication activities.

Health Communication in the Time of Ebola: A Culture-Centred Interrogation (S. Sastry & J. Dutta) [PDF]

Sastry and Dutta’s essay puts forward a culture-centred approach to effective health communication in public health crises, as an effective listening-paradigm for developing authentic, ethical, and effective practice.

Use of SMS-Based Surveys in the Rapid Responses to the Ebola Outbreak in Liberia: Opening Community Dialogue (A. Berman, M. E. Figueroa & J. D. Storey) [PDF]

Berman et al. explore the use of SMS-based surveys in guiding the communication responses Ebola. They conclude that SMS surveys are useful for providing answers within large research processes when the demand for a quick emergency response is high.

Facilitators and Barriers to Community Acceptance of Safe, Dignified Medical Burials in the Context of an Ebola Epidemic, Sierra Leone, 2014 (S. H. Lee-Kwan et al.) [PDF]

Lee-wan et al. use focus group discussions to explore community knowledge, attitudes, and practices towards safe and dignified burials in Sierra Leone. Participants suggest that opportunities for community members to participate in safe and dignified burials would improve community acceptance.

Barriers and Enablers to Treatment-Seeking Behaviour and Causes of High-Risk Practices in Ebola: A Case Study from Sierra Leone (S. E. Carter et al.) [PDF]

Carter et al. analyse the findings of a qualitative research study conducted by Oxfam during the Ebola epidemic that aimed to understand barriers and enablers affecting treatment-seeking behaviour. As a result, they argue that community outreach approaches must aim to understand the underlying causes of behaviour in order to address barriers, and improving community engagement and participation plays a major role in this.

The Development of Standard Operating Procedures for Social Mobilisation and Community Engagement in Sierra Leone during the West Africa Ebola Outbreak of 2014-2015 (D. Pedi et al.) [PDF]

Pedi et al. analyse the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for community engagement and social mobilisation in Sierra Leone during the Ebola outbreak. The article aims to explain the rationale for these SOPs, describe the methodology used to develop them, and discuss their implications for future outbeak responses.

Digital Health Communication and Global Public Influence: A Study of the Ebola Epidemic (H. Roberts et al.) [PDF]

Roberts et al. analyse the online media and public response to the Ebola epidemic in 2014 and explore whether the digitally networked public may have influenced the discourse, sentiment, and response to the epidemic.

The Opposite of Denial: Social Learning at the Onset of the Ebola Emergency in Liberia (S. Abramowitz et al.) [PDF]

Abramowitz et al. analyse findings from a community-based qualitative research initiative studying the content of Ebola-related communications (especially prevention and response measures) in Liberia. They explore whether these led to changes in beliefs and practices, and how they have implications for community engagement.

Treatment Seeking and Ebola Community Care Centres in Sierra Leone: A Qualitative Study (S. E. Carter et al.) [PDF]

Carter et al. analyse the perceived impact of Community Care Centres (CCCs) (designed to increase treatment-seeking behaviour and reduce community-level spread of Ebola) during the 2014 epidemic. They found that the proximity of CCCs: reduced people’s fears, meant they were more easily accessible, and enabled communities to be involved in their design/operation.

Community-Led Total Sanitation, Open Defecation Free Status, and Ebola Virus Disease in Lofa County, Liberia (J. M. Capps et al.) [PDF]

Capps et al. explore the correlation between communities in Lofa County, Liberia, certified as Open Defecation Free (ODF) and implementing community-led total sanitation (CLTS); and the number of Ebola Virus Disease cases.

Community Engagement in Liberia: Routine Immunization Post-Ebola (J. Bedford et al.) [PDF]

Bedford et al. analyse the use of community engagement and social mobilisation activities, developed during the Ebola response, in a national polio, measles, and deworming campaign in Liberia in 2015. They explore community perceptions of routine immunization in a post-Ebola context.

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