“I Knew I Could Make a Difference”: Motivations and Barriers to Engagement in Fighting the West African Ebola Outbreak Among U.S.-Based Health Professionals

Alexandra Greenberg, Georgia J. Michlig, Elizabeth Larson, Ilona Varallyay, Karen Chang, Blessing Enobun, Ellen Schenk, Benjamin Whong, Pamela J. Surkan, Caitlin E. Kennedy, Steven A. Harvey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The 2014 West African Ebola outbreak was unprecedented in scale and required significant international assistance. Many U.S.-based health professionals traveled to West Africa to participate in the response, whereas others considered participation, but ultimately decided against it. This study explores motivators, facilitators, and barriers to international health care worker mobilization. We conducted 24 semistructured in-depth interviews and one focus group discussion with clinical and nonclinical responders and nonresponders. Responders reported feeling duty-bound to help, confidence in their training, and prior experience in humanitarian response. Media coverage was perceived to create environments of stigma and misinformation. Supportive workplaces and clear leave of absence policies facilitated engagement, whereas unsupportive workplaces posed barriers. Although nonresponders were included in the study, the dynamics of nonresponse were less clear and warrant further exploration. Understanding how to support health professionals in responding to outbreak situations may improve mobilization in future public health crises.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)522-532
Number of pages11
JournalQualitative Health Research
Volume29
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2019

Keywords

  • Ebola
  • West Africa
  • focus group
  • grounded theory
  • health care workers
  • interviews
  • motivations
  • outbreak control
  • qualitative

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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