Online Program

Order amid Chaos: Structuring communication functions to amplify effectiveness in Ebola Time

Monday, November 2, 2015 : 12:43 p.m. - 12:56 p.m.

Jana Telfer, MA, Office of Communication/Office of Science, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA
Dagny Olivares, MPA, Office of State, Tribal and Territorial Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA
Dozens of international organizations mobilized in Liberia to stop Ebola. “Bootstrap” NGOs formed in every county. Each organization brought its own approach to messaging, outreach and methods. Without beds, ambulances, doctors, or rapid response capability, social mobilization was the only defense against Ebola. Lacking a clear strategy and a way for organizations to intersect effectively, efforts were duplicated, inconsistent, uncoordinated. Demands exceeded the capacity of the 9-member national team. The Liberian director of health promotion was the single coordinator for dozens of NGOs.

Liberia’s fledgling national Incident Command System presented an opportunity to adapt the social mobilization approach based on the Joint Information Center model. Although introducing a new structure in the midst of a major emergency was not ideal, lack of organization was limiting impact and accelerating chaos.

Together with the Ministry of Health, CDC examined relevant theories and models and proposed a structure that facilitated NGO alignment with areas of greatest expertise. Five core functions were identified to be Ministry led; five work groups, each co-led by an international and a national NGO, coalesced international expertise and built national capacity for post-Ebola work.

Within 45 days work groups had produced a message guide, designed interpersonal training, trained 73 of 88 districts in just 30 days, let a media monitoring contract, and fielded focus groups. Within 60 days, national NGOs led most of the work groups.

The Liberian model shows how developing nations can align partners to support national objectives with greatest effect.

Learning Areas:

Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs

Learning Objectives:
Analyze resources and demands to determine whether a structural approach is warranted Design a structure that supports efficient and effective functioning

Keyword(s): Health Promotion and Education, Emergency Preparedness

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: One of CDC's senior risk communication experts, Jana Telfer spent nearly 3 months in West Africa working with the Liberian Ministries of Health and Information in the Ebola response. During the Fukushima nuclear incident, she was in Japan to help the U.S. Ambassador. As an expert in applied crisis, emergency and risk communication, she values sharing information to help people under stress make better decisions.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.