As health workers in affected West African countries continue to combat new cases of the Ebola virus, a global network of health care providers and policy makers has come together to fight the disease through the power of knowledge sharing.
The Ebola Communication Network is a collection of health communication materials designed to help address the spread of Ebola across the region. Funded by the United States Agency for International Development and created by the Health Communication Capacity Collaborative (HC3) Project, the website organizes and builds upon the collective expertise of more than 40 governments and organizations with Ebola-related resources, tools, and policies.
Since the first reported case in March 2014, Ebola has grown to affect more than 14,000 cases and caused more than 5,000 deaths. While it continues to threaten communities in West Africa, the WHO reports there is some evidence that incidence is no longer increasing in Guinea and Liberia, although cases in Sierra Leone continue to increase sharply.
The virus is transmitted through direct contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids, such as blood, vomit, sweat, saliva, semen, feces, and urine, through the eyes, nose, or mouth. Preventing transmission demands early recognition and treatment. Ensuring that health care providers and leaders have access to the information that can better equip them to serve their patients and communities is critical to saving lives.
Health providers can now search the site’s more than 120 materials for resources, such as community banners and brochures, checklists for preparedness, interpersonal communication flipcharts and illustrations, decision algorithms, posters, radio messages, government communications plans and strategies, toolkits, and trainings. For example, health care providers can access courses like the “Ebola SMS Course for Health Workers,” which includes 23 messages that can be sent to health workers to inform them about Ebola and keep them updated on practices and protocols.
In addition, the site features resources in more than 15 languages. In addition to health workers, resources are categorized by other audiences with specialized knowledge needs, including aid workers, airline crews, the media, and community members. Users can also use the site to view maps of current and previous Ebola outbreaks.
USAID along with other partners—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, UNICEF, and the World Health Organization (WHO)—are committed to growing the number of relevant resources available through the site. As such, users can upload materials, which are posted after a brief review process.
The health communication tools offered through the Ebola Communication Network are critical to helping health workers build and foster trust between members of the community and the larger health care system if Ebola is to be controlled, writes HC3’s Anna Helland.
“Regaining trust means community members and health care workers feeling confident in their relationships with each other and the services provided. It means trusting themselves and each other to identify the solutions that work best for their communities” notes Helland.
Rati Bishnoi is a Knowledge and Innovations Manager at the United Nations Foundation and works on family planning issues through Family Planning 2020. She has more than eight years of editorial and project management experience and most recently worked as Program Manager at Women Deliver’s Catapult.org, a crowdfunding platform dedicated to raising funds for global gender justice programs. Prior to joining Women Deliver, Rati worked as a journalist and editor covering health care policy issues and international security issues. Rati has a Masters of Public Administration in international policy and management from New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service and a Bachelor of Arts from George Washington University.