Preparing for Ebola Virus Disease in West African countries not yet affected: Perspectives from Ghanaian health professionals

Yaw Nyarko, Lewis Goldfrank, Gbenga Ogedegbe, Sari Soghoian, Ama De-Graft Aikins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Background: The current Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) epidemic has ravaged the social fabric of three West African countries and affected people worldwide. We report key themes from an agenda-setting, multi-disciplinary roundtable convened to examine experiences and implications for health systems in Ghana, a nation without cases but where risk for spread is high and the economic, social and political impact of the impending threat is already felt. Discussion: Participants' personal stories and the broader debates to define fundamental issues and opportunities for preparedness focused on three inter-related themes. First, the dangers of the fear response itself were highlighted as a threat to the integrity and continuity of quality care. Second, healthcare workers' fears were compounded by a demonstrable lack of societal and personal protections for infection prevention and control in communities and healthcare facilities, as evidenced by an ongoing cholera epidemic affecting over 20,000 patients in the capital Accra alone since June 2014. Third, a lack of coherent messaging and direction from leadership seems to have limited coordination and reinforced a level of mistrust in the government's ability and commitment to mobilize an adequate response. Initial recommendations include urgent investment in the needed supplies and infrastructure for basic, routine infection control in communities and healthcare facilities, provision of assurances with securities for frontline healthcare workers, establishment of a multi-sector, "all-hazards" outbreak surveillance system, and engaging directly with key community groups to co-produce contextually relevant educational messages that will help decrease stigma, fear, and the demoralizing perception that the disease defies remedy or control. Summary: The EVD epidemic provides an unprecedented opportunity for West African countries not yet affected by EVD cases to make progress on tackling long-standing health systems weaknesses. This roundtable discussion emphasized the urgent need to strengthen capacity for infection control, occupational health and safety, and leadership coordination. Significant commitment is needed to raise standards of hygiene in communities and health facilities, build mechanisms for collaboration across sectors, and engage community stakeholders in creating the needed solutions. It would be both devastating and irresponsible to waste the opportunity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7
JournalGlobalization and Health
Volume11
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 26 2015

Keywords

  • Contact surveillance
  • Ebola virus disease
  • Global health crisis
  • Infection control
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Preparedness
  • Psychological consequences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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