Integrating Social Science Interventions in Epidemic, Pandemic and Health Emergency Response

Social science interventions are essential to support and explain biomedical interventions (e.g. vaccines) during an epidemic. With each infectious disease emergency, the call for social science interventions grows louder.

To establish social science interventions as a core strategy in emergencies, the World Health Organization (WHO) and Wellcome Trust co-organized the Global Consultation on Integrating Social Science Interventions in Epidemic, Pandemic and Health Emergency Response, June 8, 2017, in London, England.

Participants and speakers included experts in anthropology, communication, public health, sociology, social and political sciences, social and behavioral change (SBC) and the donor community. Discussions highlighted experiences from a range of emergency actors including UNICEF, Anthrologica, Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement, National Public Health Institute of Liberia, DFID and others.

Amrita Gill-Bailey, from the Health Communication Capacity Collaborative (HC3), was among the speakers. Ms. Gill-Bailey presented on HC3’s work in West Africa and spoke about HC3’s tools and resources, in particular the Social and Behavior ChangeCommunication (SBCC) Emergency Helix. The Helix is a framework HC3 developed based on work around Ebola and Zika, demonstrating the interplay between health systems and communities. When SBCC is incorporated into the emergency response, the efforts between them are linked and form a dynamic relationship. Like DNA, SBCC forms a communication backbone that strengthens community stability, health system adaptability and the evolution toward resilience. 

During the event, experts were tasked with identifying social science intervention gaps, agreeing on a high-level framework for integrating social science interventions into operational responses and recommending priorities for research and funding.

HC3 has documented work during the Ebola outbreak through reports, case studies and a multimedia resource. See “HC3 in Action: SBCC in Public Health Emergencies,” a brief describing key examples, challenges and insights from across the project.

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