Public Education as an Ebola Prevention Tool - dummies

Public Education as an Ebola Prevention Tool

By Edward K. Chapnick

In addition to treating the current Ebola patients, engaging in a robust public education is important and vital. Without the public’s buy-in, the epidemic can’t stop — and even if did, it wouldn’t stay gone. Spreading the word about Ebola is paramount. Here are some ways that the education process is happening in West Africa:

  • Television and radio: TV and radio are the fastest and most efficient ways to reach a large amount of people, especially in the urban areas. More people in the affected areas have radios than have TVs. And in the more remote areas, people in the affected areas may not have either, so TV and radio can’t be the only method used.

  • SMS and text messages: Using technology however possible is important. A unique campaign in Sierra Leone used these short format messages to remind people to wash their hands or report symptoms. It was well received and successful.

  • Door-to-door visits: Although some locals receive strangers suspiciously, door-to-door visits are the only way many people can be reached. When someone from the area (versus a foreign volunteer) can do these visits, they’re more successful.

  • Company-sponsored prevention and survivor support: The Firestone Company made headlines when it initiated its own response effort when an employee’s wife was diagnosed with Ebola. The company made treatment available and put tracing, monitoring, and prevention measures in place.

  • Posters and signage: Placing messaging where possible in public places helps reinforce the importance and effectiveness of prevention. Many community campaign volunteers also wear messages like “STOP EBOLA” on their clothing.

  • Gatherings and meetings: Community leaders who are well known and respected are typically the key to motivating the masses. They must call together their constituents and friends to help spread the facts.

  • Passing out hand-washing supplies and providing instruction: Going in person to deliver soap, water, chlorine, and buckets, and teaching people how to wash their hands has been a very effective and important public education tool.