Conference Call: West Africa Ebola Outbreak: Updates for Faith and Community Based Organizations in the United States

After just listening in on the CDC’s conference call, West Africa Ebola Outbreak: Updates for Faith and Community Based Organizations in the United States, I’d like to share some take home messages with you, and invite you to share any of your own ideas or comments. Their guest speakers included Reverend Miriam J. Burnett of the Resource and Promotion of Health Alliance, Inc. and Dr. Scott Santibanez of the CDC. As Rev. Burnett noted, people are more likely to pick up the phone and call clergy or a trusted person in their house of worship or their family to ask, “What do I do next?” Faith based organizations need to be armed with information to help people make the right decisions. We need to collaborate and empower our communication.

• Faith Based Organizations can Provide basic education on Ebola
o Use the CDC’s factsheets. If the format doesn’t work for your community, contact CDC and they will help you.
o No symptoms = Not contagious
o Ebola is not spread through the air.
o Ebola IS spread through contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids when it enters another person’s mucous membranes (eyes, mouth, small cuts or breaks in skin).
o Symptoms of Ebola are non-specific and include high fever, abdominal pains, diarrhea, and diffuse muscle aches. Likelihood of Ebola is higher when these symptoms are COMBINED with a travel history of being exposed to someone with Ebola. If symptoms are experienced, contact an authority. Even someone without insurance would not be turned away from the hospital.
o Treatment is supportive care, including IV fluids, supporting blood pressure, and providing oxygen, closely cared for in a hospital.
o There is no simple cure of medication to get better right away.
o Vaccines and treatments are currently experimental, meaning they have not yet been thoroughly tested for safety and effectiveness. A clinician may decide it’s worth the risk of trying an experimental medicine, but must consider safety.
o Plan for timely dissemination of needed information using many possible channels: pulpit messages, email, Twitter, phone trees.

o Ebola is our adversary and we need to work together to address this common adversary ~Dr. Scott Santibanez

Faith Based Organizations can Reduce fear & stigma related to Ebola
o If you live across the street from or next door to someone who is diagnosed with Ebola, you cannot be infected through the air, only direct contact.
o Speak out against stigmatizing families and people who are touched by Ebola, such as having infected family members or being required to stay in their homes. Show compassion for them instead.
o Speak out against stigmatizing people because of where they are from or what they look like or who they’ve been around.

• Faith Based Organizations can foster infection control measures to protect the community from many communicable diseases (including but not limited to Ebola), such as influenza and Enterovirus D68.
o Model good infection control, good hygiene, teach proper handwashing technique, keep healthy habits for yourself to boost your immune system (immunize, exercise, eat healthy, attempt to reduce stress)
o Encourage people to please stay home if they are ill. This would eliminate the risk of spreading any communicable illness through any religious ritual.
o Immunize the community. According to herd immunity, more of those immunized, the more likely it will protect the community.
o Assist with access to healthcare and health insurance for immunization.
o Proactively adapt rituals to reduce possibility of communicable disease
-Some examples given were individual use prayer rugs, having hand sanitizer in the pews to use before and after passing the peace, avoiding the use of a single chalice for Communion, sprinkling for baptism, hand washing before dipping in holy water.
o Proactively plan to adapt worship, visitation, and religious study to continue to socially integrate people although they need to stay home due to illness.
-For example recording the sermon or lesson and then distribute via DVD.

• Faith Based Organizations can Support people who must stay at home for an extended period of time.
o Make sure their basic needs are being met and participate in locating and dropping off supplies: food, water, educational materials and games for children.
o Work with local charitable network to prepare for any crises, not just Ebola (tornado, flood, hurricane, house fire).

• Faith Based Organizations can Support families of those with loved ones in affected countries, whether they are residents there or volunteer workers/missionaries.
o Provide food and emotional support

• Four Public Health Activities applicable to Faith Based Organizations
o Monitor health status to identify health problems
o Inform, educate, and empower people about health issues
o Mobilize community partners to identify and solve problems, truly in partnership with one another across faith, state, and common organizational lines
o Link people to needed personal health services and ensure health needs are met
-Connect people to access quality healthcare and insurance.
-Open enrollment for Medicare and Healthcare Marketplace are coming up.

A person’s faith is important in their healing process.~ Rev. Burnett.

• Clergy and chaplains would not be asked to provide hands on care for individuals with Ebola, but are valued providers of spiritual and emotional support.
o Look at alternate ways to be available as a resource for people
o In Dallas, using donated ipads, phones, and tablets, technology helped people stay in touch with family, loved ones, and religious leaders were counseling them via skype or phone.
o A simple connection is two phones on speaker to allow people to still be involved in their religious community and faith walks.
o Record the message for the day and send a tape or DVD to the person to connect them with what’s going on in their religious community.

• Faith Based Organizations can choose one of the many larger organizations that are providing outreach mission for Ebola, and support it. Examples: Doctors Without Borders, Unicef, Lutheran Disaster Response (at least 25 different agencies to choose from)

• CDC has many staff overseas in West Africa to help with the outbreak out of compassion for people in affected countries. They are also there as a pragmatic approach to control the epidemic at its source.

A summary of this conference call will be distributed by the CDC via email.  I will post it here as well.

I continue to hold the many people and families affected by Ebola in my prayers for healing.  Let us also hold our leaders and faith communities in prayer for effective and compassionate response to Ebola.

About courtholmes

Nurse Practitioner, Faith Community Nurse, Parish Nurse, Certified Wound Specialist, DNP Student at Quinnipiac University, Social Media Enthusiast... Passionate about integrating faith and health! CT Faith Community Nurses on Twitter @CTFCN

Posted on October 18, 2014, in Current Events, For You, Resources, Response to Ebola and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Courtney, yoiur notes are very thorough! I can’t think of anything you missed. It was good to hear so much of what we do as faith community nurses validated by the speakers.


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