Cell Broadcast Alerts as Tools for Community Outreach in Ebola Virus Disease Outbreaks in Central and Western Africa
CitationSid, Amit. 2019. Cell Broadcast Alerts as Tools for Community Outreach in Ebola Virus Disease Outbreaks in Central and Western Africa. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
AbstractEbola Virus Disease outbreaks have been a deadly and ongoing problem since the initial outbreaks of Zaire ebolavirus and Sudan ebolavirus in 1976. To date, 28 distinct outbreaks have been identified (CDC, 2017), with the deadliest outbreak occurring between 2014 and 2016, and 4 additional outbreaks since, including one which is still ongoing as of January 2019 (WHO, 2019). Analysis of self-scored, standardized emergency response evaluations called JEETs revealed that national governments in affected areas encounter a variety of difficulties in responding to these outbreaks, often lacking severely in areas such as funding, organizational cooperation, and access to critical supplies. The goal of this research was to identify an effective, low-cost strategy for EVD outbreak response communications. By analyzing mobile usage statistics, as well as comparing existing mobile network infrastructure to recent EVD outbreaks, it was determined that emergency cellular alerts would be a feasible and effective method of emergency outreach. Existing cellular communication networks are present in the most heavily-affected countries, and mobile communication penetrations in these countries are high and rapidly increasing, providing an already-established method of rapid, direct communication with hundreds of millions of potential targets. Previous studies on EVD outbreak tracking using mobile communications have yielded positive results (Feng, Grepin & Chunara, 2018; Njoku, 2014; Tracey et al., 2015). By investigating the roles of engagement with local communities and importance of building trust and respecting local customs, as well as previous examples of EVD outreach communications, several guidelines for emergency messages to EVD-affected areas were created, which, if implemented, could quickly and effectively aid in outbreak control in affected areas.
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