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Merlin Lassa Fever Campaign

Risk communication and public health intervention 

Risk Communication in epidemics builds upon social science principles by listening to what people say, think and do about disease. Engagement with communities is key to achieving positive behavioral change as it proactively incorporates the aspirations, concerns, needs and values of citizens and communities into  decision-making processes; and establishes ongoing partnerships with communities to ensure that the community’s priorities and values continue to shape services and the service system. This partnership process aims to make better decisions that are supported by the community and result in better outcomes for both the community and the agencies.

There is limited social science research on public health interventions relating to hemorrhagic fevers in the West African sub region. Recent outbreaks of Lassa fever in Nigeria have highlighted the need to change this and preliminary research was undertaken to study human practices that might support control efforts or which could be exacerbating the spread of disease. Risk communication professionals usually want to gain an understanding of what people already know about a disease before they design their interventions. There are many different ways to do this, although sometimes, especially in an outbreak situation, the need for detailed information has to be balanced with the importance of responding quickly and ensuring people’s safety.

Anthropological and other in-depth qualitative methods provide detailed information about people’s perceptions of disease and responses to outbreaks, but also about the context (present and past) that can drive some actions (including of those delivering interventions as well as affected populations). In contrast, Knowledge, Attitude and Practice (KAP) studies offer a relatively static picture of the situation under analysis, and their results need to be read with caution, but they can be carried out quickly and provide a starting point for understanding community concerns.  Most of the resources currently available for understanding public health campaigns around Lassa fever in Nigeria are KAP studies. To our knowledge, there is no in-depth research about the reception of public health campaigns for Lassa fever in Nigeria and no research of any kind related to public health campaigns for Lassa fever in other affected countries.

 

Policy Relevant Findings:

  • Communities are part of the response and not something to control
  • Social science helps us understand how people’s concerns about disease are linked to specific contexts. Risk communication and community engagement must respond to these context-specific concerns.
  • Social Science research can be conducted as part of ongoing public health campaigns and during epidemics to to facilitate outbreak response actions

Resources

Land tenure in Sierra Leone: the law, dualism, and the making of a land policy

This book gives a brief account of the background to the dual land tenure system in force in Sierra Leone and explains the reasons why the dualism derived from the different colonial experience of the former Colony and Protectorate of Sierra Leone still persists. It also gives an account of the main features of the English derived land law in the Western Area and of the forms of land holding in the Provinces which are governed predominately by customary law.

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Engaging ‘communities’: Anthropological insights from the West African Ebola epidemic

This resource reflects on the nature of community engagement during the Ebola epidemic and demonstrates a disjuncture between local realities and what is being imagined in post-Ebola reports about the lessons that need to be learned for the future. It argues that to achieve stated aims of building trust and strengthening outbreak response and health systems, public health institutions need to reorientate their conceptualization of ‘the community’ and develop ways of working which take complex social and political relationships into account.

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Public awareness of Lassa fever in three rural communities of Nigeria

This resource aims to assess public awareness of Lassa fever among residents of three rural communities in Edo State, Nigeria through the use of a structured questionnaire. The television was the most popular source of Lassa fever awareness in all communities studied. Among participants who reported to have heard of Lassa fever, vehicles of transmission of disease mentioned included mosquito bites 9 (32.1%), dog bites 7 (25%) and eating of rat-contaminated food 2 (7.1%). Sleeping under mosquito bed nets and intake of herbal concoction were the principal mode of prevention of Lassa fever reported by respondents.

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Monkeypox: Did the Nigerian media do more harm than good?

The objective of this study was to describe the kind of information published by the media during the Monkeypox outbreak in Nigeria. Although most of the information reported were from verifiable sources, there was a high level of sensationalism around the Monkeypox outbreak which heightened public anxiety. Health reporters and the media in Nigeria should be trained on how to accurately report disease outbreak reports and health facts.

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Knowledge, attitude and practice to Lassa fever virus among shop owners in four community markets in a military barrack in Kaduna state, Nigeria

This resource describes the results of a Knowledge, attitude and practice survey conducted amongst shop owners of four community markets in a military barrack in Kaduna state, Nigeria. The findings in this study show that the respondents have a good knowledge, and positive attitudes and practices towards Lassa fever virus. Nonetheless, awareness programs should continue, proper medical care should be provided for the sick, and protective gears should be available to health care workers.

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