Development of a social marketing strategy to promote Ebola treatment-seeking behaviour in Sierra Leone

Grant awarded: £158,547

Lead organisation: Umeå University, Sweden

Partnering organisations: Medical Research Centre in Sierra Leone, Centre for Health Research and Training in Sierra Leone

Project length: Jan-15 to Apr-15

Study locations: Sierra Leone

Principal Investigator: Professor John Kinsman


This study took an applied anthropological approach, first examining community perceptions of current Ebola messages and the broader Ebola response, and then developing Ebola treatment-seeking messages that respond to people’s concerns. These messages were then validated in a further, short round of field work, and refined and disseminated to key in-country stakeholders for use.

Expected outcomes:

The project has developed a set of gender-sensitive and urban-rural-specific Ebola messages, with accompanying messengers and channels. These have been field-tested and amended accordingly, and then disseminated. A database of visual Ebola messages used in the country has also been built.

Progress and outcomes achieved:

The project is now complete, with the following milestones successfully accomplished: Ethical clearance; Development of Ebola-message database; Short meeting to engage key in-country stakeholders; Research assistant training; Formative research in two different districts; Strategy development workshop in Freetown; Validation and refining of messages; In-country dissemination.

Dissemination took place in two phases:

1. A presentation was made to the National Ebola Response Centre (NERC) Daily Briefing directly after the strategy development workshop in March, including a draft set of messages and associated channels and messengers, along with associated operational issues. These were well received and the team was asked to immediately draw up messages that could be used in the country during the 3-day lockdown the following weekend.

2. After field-testing and refining of the messages, a final draft of our messaging document was presented at a meeting in April to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, representatives from NERC and the Social Mobilisation Pillar, UN agencies, and a number of NGOs.

R2HC Funding for Ebola Projects.  A Rapid Response

 In August 2014, the Ebola Outbreak in West Africa was declared an International Health Emergency by WHO and within a couple of weeks ELRHA launched a rapid-response call for research to combat the crisis.  The UK Department for International Development (DFID), the Wellcome Trust and ELRHA opened a special funding window through the Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises (R2HC) programme.

 The aim of this emergency call was both to produce robust research findings that could contribute to the effectiveness of the response to the current outbreak and help to draw lessons for future outbreaks of Ebola and other communicable diseases. The projects funded will strengthen the evidence base for the Ebola response in topics ranging from diagnostics to anthropology, surveillance and disease control.


Umeå University, Sweden – ‘Umeå-based researcher presents Ebola report in Sierra Leone’, 12.05.15

Elrha is a registered charity in England and Wales (1177110).

Web design by Teamworks