Communication Research and the Response to Ebola: An ICA Panel May 21-25

ica4On May 22, the Health Communication Collaborative (HC3) will participate in a panel discussion on communication research and the Ebola response at the International Communication Association’s 65th Annual Conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

A teleconference line will be provided for those unable to attend in person. The panel will take place from 9:00 AM – 11:45 AM EDT.

US-based callers: 888-651-5908
Others: 602-333-0021
Participant Code: 6596122

The overall aim of the panel, “Communication Research Response to the Ebola Outbreak: The Only Cure Available,” is to reflect upon the recent outbreak and emphasize the importance of including health communication and culture in a response to rapidly emerging health threats. By providing critical, theoretical, and data-driven perspectives, the panelists will demonstrate the value and capability of communication theory and research in an outbreak.

Using a social ecological approach, the panel will discuss research focused on policy and culture, health systems, community and individual response, and how those areas are integrated. Key integration questions to be discussed include:

  • What can communication scholarship and practice reveal about public response to an emerging health issue like Ebola?
  • What does an emerging health issue like Ebola reveal about links between different domains of communication theory and praxis?
  • What can we learn from the communication response to Ebola that will move the field of health and development communication forward?

The Panel

  • Collins Airhihenbuwa – Head and Professor of Bio-behavioral health, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Catie Bailard and Silvio Waisbord – School of Media and Public Affairs, George Washington University
  • Michael Bailey and Amanda Berman – Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs
  • Daniel Barnett – Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
  • Maha Bashri – Department of Communication, Bradley University
  • Mohan Dutta – Provost Chair Professor and Head, Department of Communications and New Media, National University of Singapore
  • Maria Elena Figueroa – Department of Health Behavior & Society, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
  • Maria Lapinski – Associate Dean for Research, College of Communication Arts and Sciences, Professor, Department of Communication and Michigan AgBio Research, Michigan State University
  • Rafael Obregon – Chief, Communication for Development Section, Gender, Rights and Civic Engagement Cluster Programme Division, UNICEF
  • Shaunak Sastry – Assistant Professor, Department of Communication University of Cincinnati

The Moderators

  • Douglas Storey – Director for Communication Science and Research, Center for Communication Programs, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
  • Khadidiatou Ndiaye – Milken Institute School of Public Health, George Washington University


Choosing an SBCC Framework for Ebola

In an effort to curb the spread of Ebola in Guinea's, volunteers are managing the dead bodies like here in the village of Koango, in Gueckedou when a girl whose grandmother is suffering from Ebola also deceased. ©afreecom/Idrissa Soumaré

In an effort to curb the spread of Ebola in Guinea’s, volunteers are managing the dead bodies like here in the village of Koango, in Gueckedou when a girl whose grandmother is suffering from Ebola also deceased. ©afreecom/Idrissa Soumaré

Yesterday, my colleague opened a forum for discussing Ebola on the Springboard for Health Communication and invited me to join. For two months I’ve been following the outbreak on the news, reading about it on listervs and growing more and more concerned about it.

What I know
Ebola is brand new to West Africa, having only been documented in humans among the public in Central and East Africa. Just as health educators in the recent past had to convince many in Southern Africa that HIV/AIDS was real, they are today facing a similar challenge with Ebola in West Africa.

Ebola doubters are in Sierra Leone, Ebola skeptics in Liberia and Ebola vigilantes in Guinea. In each country campaigns are underway to counter these entrenched beliefs and large scale responses including a nationwide curfew in Sierra Leone. The curfew was a success but sustained social and behavior change communication (SBCC) is needed.

“The public needs to understand that this campaign did not end Ebola but can be the beginning of the end if everyone remains vigilant,” said American Charge d’affairs to Sierra Leone, Kathleen Fitzgibbon, as reported in the Guardian.

What I want to know
When countering fear and denial, what behavior change frameworks are most effective? Could the Diffusion of Innovation model be used to bring in new attitudes leading to behavior change? If so, what community leaders need to be reached first and, with the breadth of the outbreak so wide, which part of the population has the most pressing need?

Another of my colleagues shared a World Bank blog post suggesting that entertainment-education has a unique role to play in the Ebola response. In the post, Margaret Miller and Olga Jonas discuss fear in the context of the movie Contagion. If the Extended Parallel Process Model were to be used, how would it be done?

Countries in East Africa where Ebola has been seen in the past (Uganda in 2000-2001 and 2007-2008) also have a need for social and behavior change communication and are taking notice. What model would be appropriate for these countries who may have different knowledge attitudes and practices about Ebola? How might their unique history addressing HIV/AIDS factor into choosing a BCC framework?

If you have an idea or thought, please let us know by sharing it as a comment below.