The Union helps rebuild health systems in Ebola-affected countries through operational research

On 21 June 2017, a supplement was published in Public Health Action describing the effect of the Ebola outbreak on health systems performance in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Sixteen studies were conducted and were assembled for this special issue.

The research was implemented through the Structured Operational Research and Training Initiative (SORT IT), a global partnership led by the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases at the World Health Organization (WHO-TDR).  The Ministry of Health of Sierra Leone and Liberia, the WHO Country Office, WHO-TDR, and a number of SORT IT implementing partners including The Union, collaborated to develop and implement each national SORT IT programme, which took place after the Ebola outbreak had largely subsided. The SORT IT Programmes were funded by the Department for International Development (DFID), UK, and WHO-TDR.

The sixteen studies assessed a wide range of programmes and services before, during and after the outbreak. These included maternal and child care services, HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, non-communicable diseases, vaccination and malnutrition.

The studies also provided important insights into infection prevention monitoring, community health workers programmes and performance-based financing. The operational research published in the supplement demonstrates the importance of studying the effects of the Ebola outbreak on health systems performance. 

A comprehensive editorial by three guest editors who served in West Africa during the outbreak summarises these studies and asks: “Is it feasible for the research community to organise a rapid response operational research team to inform health systems responses during an outbreak?”

The operational research could use both quantitative and qualitative methods and use the evidence generated for immediate action while an epidemic is on-going.

Read the full supplement in The Union's free access, online journal, Public Health Action