Understanding Ebola: Launch of the Ebola Response Anthropology Platform

26 November 2014

Last week, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine launched the Ebola Response Anthropology Platform (ERAP), in partnership with IDS and the University of Exeter. The platform is an online resource to help health workers work more effectively with local communities.

Sierra Leone Gbeka

Improving evidence and understanding of Ebola

The UK's Department for International Development (DFID) and the Wellcome Trust have jointly funded ERAP as part of a £1.34 million fund for five research programmes to improve evidence and understanding Ebola and help combat the outbreak in West Africa.

The platform will help staff communicate health messages effectively, assess the acceptability of drug trials to people in West Africa, support the modification of funeral practices in Sierra Leone to improve safety, and develop home nursing guidelines.

Bringing together an international network of anthropologists

Dr Melissa Parker, Reader in Medical Anthropology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said:"This funding has enabled us to establish a platform which draws together an international network of anthropologists with expertise in West Africa and medical anthropology. Working closely with communities in the affected areas, we will advise agencies and healthcare workers on the best approaches to identifying and diagnosing Ebola cases, caring for the sick, and managing the dead. Ensuring these interventions are adapted to local circumstances will increase their effectiveness and help bring this terrible Ebola epidemic under control."

International Development Secretary Justine Greening said: “I have seen for myself in Sierra Leone the devastation that Ebola can cause. The UK has taken the lead in tackling this outbreak in Sierra Leone. The first of six British-built treatment centres is now open and British funding is trebling the number of treatment beds, supporting burial teams, researching a vaccine and providing vital supplies for thousands of health workers. These ground-breaking new research projects have the potential to transform understanding of the disease.”

Supporting public health measures through knowledge and understanding of communities

Dr Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust said: “Up until now, support for the Ebola outbreak has focused on improving public health measures by increasing facilities and equipment, and fast tracking vaccine and drug trials. However, without knowledge and understanding of local communities this life-saving work can often fail. This funding will address that gap by training medical staff to engage effectively with local people about key issues, improving diagnostic tests and providing predictive mapping of the spread of the disease.”

Other projects focus on the development of improved diagnostic tools to strengthening surveillance and protecting health workers, and are led by the University of Westminster, the University of Oxford and the International Rescue Committee. The funding for the five projects has been made available from an existing £6.5 million research initiative, Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises (R2HC), which is jointly funded by DFID and the Wellcome Trust.