Global Public Health
Volume 13, 2017 Issue 11
Rebuilding people-centred maternal health services in post-Ebola Liberia through participatory action research
Theresa Jones, Lara Ho, Kelvin Koffa Kun, Penelope Milsom, John Shakpeh, Ruwan Ratnayake & Rene Loewenson
Published online: 31 Jan 2018
During the March 2014–January 2016 Ebola crisis in Liberia, Redemption Hospital lost 12 staff and became a holding facility for suspected cases, prompting violent hostility from the surrounding New Kru Town community, in the capital city Monrovia. Inpatient services were closed for 6 months, leaving the population without maternity care. In January 2015, Redemption reopened, but utilization was low, especially for deliveries. A key barrier was community trust in health workers which worsened during the epidemic. The New Kru Town council, Redemption Hospital, the International Rescue Committee, and Training and Research Support Centre initiated participatory action research (PAR) in July 2015 to build communication between stakeholder groups, and to identify impacts of the epidemic and shared actions to improve the system. The PAR involved pregnant women, community-based trained traditional midwives (TTMs) and traditional birth attendants (TBAs), and community leaders, as well as health workers. Qualitative data and a pre-post survey of PAR participants and community members assessed changes in relationships and maternal health services. The results indicated that Ebola worsened community-hospital relations and pre-existing weaknesses in services, but also provided an opportunity to address these when rebuilding the system through shared action. Findings suggest that PAR generated evidence and improved communication and community and health worker interaction.