Building Trust Within Communities Vital To DRC’s Ebola Response

HuffPost: The Most Important Tool For Doctors Fighting DRC’s Ebola Crisis Isn’t Medicine
Abraar Karan, global health physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School

“My experience as a public health practitioner has convinced me that a lack of trust has become a critical driver of modern epidemics. We are seeing this unfold right now in the Ebola epidemic raging in the Democratic Republic of the Congo… Epidemics require quick action, but we cannot cut corners when it comes to understanding a community’s knowledge, attitudes, and practices before employing interventions. … Some patients may be amenable to vaccination, some to treatment, some to testing, and some to none of these. Nonetheless, public health responders must use every opportunity to build rapport, establish trust, and prove to communities that they are there in the best interests of the community’s health. … We may not convince every single person to do everything we ask, but if we can convince a community to trust that we are there because we are concerned about them as people — not just as transmitters of disease — we will begin to see a very different response” (11/25).

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