Visit to CDC and EBOLA display: A twenty-first century Global Health Marvel. Tribute to the health workers and the true citizens.

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The Story of CDC

  • First established in 1946 under the name of Communicable Disease Center by the Public Health Service, USA.
  • Was stationed in Atlanta in the first place because of its limitation to communicable diseases then and higher concentration of malaria in the South.
  • Now expanded to include all infectious diseases, occupational health, toxic chemicals, injury, chronic diseases, health statistics and birth defects.
  • Reports to the Department of Health and Human Services and works in collaboration with other public health partners.
  • Though the initials CDC has remained constant over time, the meaning has expanded over time to:

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  1. Communicable Disease Center

  2. Center for Disease Control

  3. Centers for Disease Control

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( at present)

 

 

CDC today leads the Global fight against known, new and emerging diseases around the globe with expanding preventive efforts to reduce the global burden of preventable and chronic diseases. As frequent as the expansion of their name has evolved, CDC has come a long way creating their legacy all on the way. Anywhere around the globe, when the issue of health and safety is of concern, CDC has been a center for hope, a beam of trust, an architect of research break-through and novel treatment modalities.

Through the relentless effort of our organizers from Georgia State University in Fulbright seminar we were able to schedule a tour inside one of the heavily guarded office buildings I have ever been to. The level of sophistication of their work, subtlety, numerous bio safety level 4 (BSL4) labs and with volume of pathogenic specimens dealt every day, I firmly believe those security requirements was a just.

 

David J. Sencer CDC Museum

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First step of our tour was through the David Sencer museum. After a round of security authorization we were greeted at the main lobby by chairs of the museum. The lobby on the left, opened into a simulative third generation auditorium with large billboard sized screens hanging on from the ceiling flashing up their graphic retina display of health messages and information on CDC.

If I am not mistaken, the messages and people showing up on those televisions appeared to be communicating with you personally. At least for me they appeared to have their gazes fixed at me, upheld full eye contact throughout the time. While I pretended to be attentive to the debriefing, I kept on peeking through the corner of my eyes, it was surprising for a few seconds and then started to grow creepy later on- People on the screens, follow you directly and try to talk to you on washing hands!

 

EBOLA display

Upon entering the museum, on the second floor right next to the lobby, to welcome us was the recently setup temporary Ebola gallery. For a budding public health scholar, which I like to refer myself, it was the highlight of the whole tour.

Back in the year 2014, the Ebola outbreak in Western African nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone took the whole world by a major surprise. Until then Ebola was a disease only known for its academic interest. Speculated to have originated by consumption of infected bat easy spread, rapid disease progression, potential fatal outcome, and remoteness of the outbreak setting made it an overnight global threat.

 

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“The citizens of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone- with so much to gain and so much to lose- were the true first responders to the epidemic. Time and time again, they took responsibility for their destinies.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Citizen- Driven Response

The propensity of EBOLA to grow into a global pandemic became very clear in a matter of days which demanded vigorous measures not only in terms of clinical care but public health efforts, which could not have been anywhere near successful without dedicated community participation.

From Cellphones to Megaphones to Motorcycles: Tools to Engage Citizens

Often at times of emergency, communication is the first line of defense. Communities need to understand the situation and communication is the only means of bridging the gap between science and public.

Social mobilizers used every tool at their disposal in spreading awareness about Ebola. The communication toolbox compromised of all forms of written and audio/visual media, Short Message Service (SMS), traditional use of mikes and megaphones at the town centers, even town criers, arts and drawings on walls at public places, spreading message through school children, volunteers, health workers.

The unprecedented use of awareness spread campaigns and social mobilization was the key for EBOLA control. Community engagement was recognized as the detrimental tool very early and hence all NGO staffs, community members, volunteers, students were encouraging members of the community for their active participation. Their involvement resulted in developing strategic dialogues, large coordinated campaigns and above all the much-needed community ownership and participation.

Some communication strategies

U-Report

  • A novel form of text-based communication platform that allowed individual subscribers to ask questions, get real time answers and share information.
  • Developed and funded by UNICEF and used in Liberia.

Social Mobilization Action Consortium (SMAC)

  • Implemented in Sierra Leone to intensify village-level effort by sending out community mobilizers in villages with critical life-saving and behavioral change messages.
  • A joint action committee between GOAL, Focus 1000, BBC Media Action, Restless Development and CDC serving as a technical consultant.
  • More than 2000 community members mobilized and 70 % of Sierra-Leone community reached.

Sacrifices in the line of duty

Health care workers directly involved in patient handling and care are always susceptible to the infectious diseases. Even before the disease diagnosis, establishment of preventive protocols many health care workers were already infected with the disease. Out of documented total 881 doctors, nurses and midwives infected 513 lost their lives to EBOLA.

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The fragile public health system of these nations weakened by years of war, political unrest and poverty suffered the greatest setback from this outbreak. Liberia and Sierra Leone lost 8 and 7 percent of their total health care workers, including doctors and nurses to EBOLA respectively, with an attributable 23% of decrease in health care service in Sierra Leone alone.

A global health marvel

The gallery housed display of boots, gears, masks, safety robes including the white boards used for tracking cases. Maintaining counts of sick, dead and contact tracing is essential for out-break control. There I saw back of folders with actual hand drawn diagrams and calculations used for record keeping.

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The EBOLA display was a real-life demonstration of how different nations and agencies can come to a common ground of understanding. It also displayed on how epidemiological tools can be meticulously formatted to prevent an inevitable catastrophe to the mankind. It left me with the deeper understanding of my chosen field of interest and above all, an honor to the real soldiers, citizens of West Africa- with so much to gain and so much to lose- the true first responders!

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