Managing and Responding to the 2014 Ebola Outbreak

By Edward K. Chapnick

Many agencies and entities have had to work together to respond to a global epidemic. Without effective collaboration, sharing of resources, and involvement from all regions, a health crisis like the Ebola outbreak of 2014 won’t end.

World Health Organization (WHO)

The World Health Organization (WHO) is the big boss when it comes to any sort of global healthcare concern.

The WHO’s website explains the group’s mission: “It is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system. It is responsible for providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends.” You can find lot more other helpful information at this site.

During this current outbreak, WHO has suffered some criticism, but the organization is still considered the coordinating entity, working with various leaders, governments, and private agencies to produce a response that will be effective.

United Nations (UN)

The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization that’s been in existence since 1945 with the mission of promoting international peace and security. It was founded after WWII to prevent another similar war from happening.

To address the current Ebola outbreak, the UN has formed the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), which focuses mostly on helping with infrastructure needs, such as providing air assets, vehicles, and telecommunications.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the U.S. government’s major public health agency. It has a pretty large authority, but tends to defer to state and local health officials. During this outbreak response, the CDC has provided information and resources, such as logistics, staffing, analytics, communications, and management.

It, too, has been criticized for various missteps, especially early on, but it presses on and is working on new initiatives to battle this outbreak.

State and local government/health officials

State and local health officials are quite often the frontline first responders tasked with implementing the CDC’s directives. They’re the ones interfacing most directly with the public and potential and actual patients and healthcare workers.

In this current outbreak, they train healthcare facilities and their employees as well as law enforcement officers, and they also manage the laboratories that test for the virus. They communicate with and educate the public about Ebola. What’s tricky about the state level is that the level of authority, care, and resources can vary from state to state.

For example, Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York and Chris Christie of New Jersey imposed a quarantine of Kaci Hickox, a nurse returning from West Africa, on October 24. Fortunately, countries outside of the affected area haven’t run into too many problems with consistency and organization because there haven’t been many cases beyond Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.