Key experiences of community engagement and social mobilization in the Ebola response

Glob Health Promot. 2016 Mar;23(1):79-82. doi: 10.1177/1757975915606674. Epub 2015 Oct 29.


The ongoing outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa is the largest on record; it has undermined already fragile healthcare systems and presented new challenges to contain the spread of the disease. Based on our observations in the field and insights from referenced sources, we aimed to identify key experiences of community engagement and social mobilization efforts in the current Ebola response. We concluded that there is no excuse not to actively involve local people and that the United Nations (UN) agencies and other partners did learn from their earlier mistakes to make a genuine attempt to better engage with communities. However, bottom-up approaches have not been widely implemented during the response and the reasons for not doing so must be further assessed. Health promotion can make an important contribution, because it shows how to enable people to take more control over their lives and health. This commentary can provide a guide to agencies to understand an appropriate way forward when the next Ebola outbreak inevitably occurs.

Keywords: Ebola; anthropologists; community action; community engagement; community resistance; disease management; health promotion; outbreak response; public health; social mobilization.

MeSH terms

  • Africa, Western / epidemiology
  • Anthropology, Cultural / methods*
  • Community Participation / methods*
  • Health Promotion / methods
  • Health Promotion / organization & administration*
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola / epidemiology*
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola / prevention & control
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola / transmission
  • Humans
  • International Cooperation
  • Organizations
  • Public Health / methods*
  • Public Health / standards
  • United Nations