Communication and education have dramatically helped reduce the ebola crisis in the town of Foya, Liberia where the epidemic started.
From more than 100 patients, there now are only three. Doctors without Borders (Medicins Sans Frontieres) stemmed the epidemic by hiring local health workers. They explained to families that MSF was there to help their loved ones, not spread ebola. These local workers confronted fear and built trust through time-tested communications techniques.
Best practices that have made a difference include:
1. Trusted Sources – MSF hired local health workers known in the community. Because residents believed their neighbors, MSF was able to transport, treat and isolate ill residents, reducing the spread of ebola in households.
2. Education – These trusted local health workers taught residents the importance of hand-washing and not touching bodies.
3. Transparency – MSF allowed families to view loved ones who had died from the disease.
4. Respect – The non-profit let ill patients make calls to family and friends. This helped address rumors and reduce fear about seeking help at the clinic.
5. Radio – Experts encouraged people to call and ask questions. Again, education and communications changed minds.
Good communications strategies can help change attitudes and address a crisis exploding due to fear and misinformation. MSF has long worked in Africa. They learned the importance of engaging local residents to help educate others with important health messages.
Crisis communications do not generally achieve immediate results. Instead, a good communications strategy and teamwork are needed. When many work towards the same goal consistently over time, dramatic results are possible.
Let us help you influence others with effective messaging and strategy.
To hear the full story on NPR visit http://www.npr.org/2014/10/26/359065316/an-ebola-success-story-in-northern-liberia