Heart of an emergency
Sierra Leoneans teach staff member community input is essential to change behaviors
By Jan Stapleman | Office of Communications
Forty-two. That’s the number of days Sierra Leone went without a reported Ebola case (two 21-day incubation periods) to secure “Ebola-free” designation Nov. 7. It’s also the number of days Aimee Voth Siebert spent working there as a health promotion specialist. Although her work ended seven days before the nation’s all-important Day 42 celebration, she exchanged virtual high-fives from Colorado with an expanded group of Facebook friends in Sierra Leone.

Voth Siebert deployed under an agreement between the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the CDC, negotiating a two-month leave from her work as a disaster behavioral health specialist with the department’s Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response. After two weeks’ training at CDC headquarters in Atlanta, she arrived in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital, Sept. 20. There she learned she was being sent “up country” to the Port Loko district, which was approaching 100 days without a newly reported case.

As a health promotion specialist, Voth Siebert conducted “rapid behavior assessments.” She traveled out to remote villages for one-on-one interviews of residents to determine the “why” behind trends in community behaviors. She credits her driver, Pa Baimba, for delivering her to all 11 chiefdoms in the district, negotiating seemingly impassable, mud-rutted roads and willing the team’s four-wheel-drive, stick-shift SUV out of flooded ditches. She credits her two language and cultural facilitators for teaching her rudimentary Krio words and coaching her on cultural norms that opened doors to communication.  ... more

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