Since its discovery in 1976, the Ebola virus has killed many people (WP Editorial Board, 2014). In the past, it has often manifested in small outbreaks that kill dozens, or hundreds of people, before containment. However, the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa was the deadliest (WP Editorial Board, 2014). The outbreak affected some West African countries, including Nigeria, Senegal, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Guinea and Senegal (Sun, 2014). Internationally, the disease also affected America and some European countries. Although some of these countries are now Ebola-free, recent health reports show that the death toll, from the outbreak, is nearing 9,000 people (WP Editorial Board, 2014). The same report shows that the fatality rate for the disease is 71% (Sun, 2014). Poor preparedness and poor coordination are mainly responsible for the high number of fatalities associated with this health disaster (WP Editorial Board, 2014). In line with this observation, this paper shows how the affected countries could better prepare for the disaster.
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How might federal, state, and local resources be coordinated to respond to this Ebola outbreak in West Africa?
Coordination in health disaster management should occur at different levels. At a federal level, governments should screen the people leaving or coming into a country for Ebola. At a state level, the government should mobilize state resources to contain the disaster (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, n.d.). This step involves freeing state resources to create a working health infrastructure for containing the outbreak. Locally, there should be a “grass root” support, where community organizations could volunteer their services and provide resource support to state and federal health agencies (Public Health Informatics Institute, n.d.). Furthermore, people should be willing to volunteer information to authorities concerning sick people, or people they suspect to have contracted the virus. Such initiatives should stop cases of family members hiding some of their loved ones for fear of isolation (Sun, 2014). If authorities implemented these initiatives during the Ebola outbreak, there could have been a limited spread of the virus and fewer fatalities.
How might state and local agencies and officials work together to plan and respond to this Ebola outbreak in West Africa?
Coordinating health care activities during the Ebola outbreak involves the use of different strategies. Based on the factors highlighted in this paper, different health agencies could have done a better job managing the disaster by coordinating their efforts. They could have done so in two ways. First, they could have used a common technological platform to manage their activities. This way, they would have known what each agency is doing (Public Health Informatics Institute, n.d.). This platform could have provided them with real-time response initiatives on the ground. Similarly, the health agencies could have formed a crisis center to coordinate their activities. This central post could have helped them to eliminate redundancies in emergency responses (Public Health Informatics Institute, n.d.). Collectively, these two strategies show how state and local agencies could have worked together to plan and respond to the Ebola outbreak.
Assuming the role of a public health leader in this situation, suggest tasks involved in the preparation for a future Ebola outbreak and explain why you are suggesting them
Proper health crisis management depends on a country’s level of preparedness. In this regard, health agencies could have managed the Ebola outbreak through proper planning and preparedness. As a public health leader, I would adopt the health management plan outlined in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response (2011) framework. This plan outlines seven important steps in the management and preparation of health disasters. They include:
- improving the capability of health workers to respond to an outbreak
- enhancing stewardship of public health preparedness funds
- strengthening health infrastructure
- increasing the application of science in public health preparedness
- advancing surveillance and epidemiology
- promoting resilient individuals in the community
- integrating the public health care system with emergency management.
I choose these steps because the CDC has proven that they outline effective methods for preventing and mitigating threats to public health.
Who was in command of that incident? Explain whether you think the right organization and individuals were in command. Provide a rationale for your answer
Disorganization and a lack of coordination characterized the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa (Sun, 2014). Based on these factors, state authorities and local authorities oversaw different facets of health disaster management separately. Internationally, “doctors beyond borders” offered invaluable help to the affected nations (Sun, 2014). The World Health Organization (WHO) also offered support in the same manner. Nonetheless, the confusion that characterized the outbreak undermined their response to the disaster. The WHO should have commanded the outbreak because it has enough resources and knowledge to do so. Furthermore, the health crisis affected different countries that had independent health care systems. It was difficult to coordinate the activities of these health care agencies without a common oversight body to harmonize their efforts. The WHO could have played an instrumental role in this regard because its activities are cross-border and it has accumulated vast knowledge regarding how to manage such disasters in Africa and other parts of the world.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Emergency preparedness and response. Web.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response. (2011). A national strategic plan for public health preparedness and response. Web.
Public Health Informatics Institute. (n.d.). Common ground: Transforming public health information systems. Web.
Sun, L. (2014). Global response to Ebola marked by lack of coordination and leadership, experts say. Web.
WP Editorial Board. (2014). West Africa can’t manage the Ebola outbreak. Web.