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Community Engagement Critical To Response, Research Activities During Global Health Emergencies

The Guardian: The importance of community involvement in tackling Ebola
Katharine Wright, assistant director of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, and 18 colleagues in global health

“…When such crises [like the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)] emerge, a trusting relationship between responders and affected community members makes a vital difference to whether the response is effective. As shown in DRC, trust is not a given, which is one of the reasons why community engagement — involving local people in the development of the response from the very start — is so important. In conflict zones this is more difficult than in other emergencies, and yet even more important. This also holds true when conducting research during an outbreak … A recent international meeting of survivors’ leaders, community engagement specialists, and medical and social science researchers … has identified key features of community engagement relating to both response and research, including: Effective engagement is a two-way process … Approaches must be founded on empathy, human connections, and a recognition of the history and experiences of those affected by the outbreak … Community engagement must be embedded from the beginning as a core part of response and research activities, with appropriate funding and support. … We call on national governments, research funders, research ethics committees, the media, and others to unite in promoting and supporting community engagement for response and research during global health emergencies” (5/22).