Community Engaged Infection Control: Ebola
In an article recently published with collaborators from Africa, we outline ways the global response to infectious diseases must include community members as engaged experts. The article appears in the journal Health Promotion International. A blog post at Oxford University Press outlines our proposal. In short, we suggest an eight step process to better address disease outbreaks through early and sustained community engagement. These steps include ensuring that outside health care workers familiarize themselves with a community (its customs, beliefs, and informal leaders) before entering; that they enter accompanied by a respected local leader, and with “cultural humility” (showing respect for the community’s knowledge and assets); that they listen and learn, not simply give orders and take unexplained and fear-producing actions. A meeting in the community, called by local leaders and to which outside health workers are invited as guests, is another important step; it allows outsiders to share what they know while promoting reciprocal learning, and establishing trust and respect. Community meetings also provide a good platform for assessing “community readiness” to work with health care workers in identifying aspects of the standard infection prevention and control (IPC) protocol that might be adjusted to improve their cultural congruence, without compromising safety.