Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Ebola Messages:the blame game when we need truth and justice

The four young women I interviewed yesterday said that the nurse who contracted Ebola  (first nurse in Texas) must have "disrespected" the medical protocols.

Well, this headline on CNN tonight will do nothing to help them and countless others taking in Ebola information broaden their perception - move it beyond the idea of "bad actors" acting badly, or irresponsibly.

And I don't hold out too much hope that the ubiquitous streaming videos  explaining how to don and doff protective medical gear aren't inadvertently reinforcing the blame model that people are developing.

I can imagine someone saying:
"If it's so clear what the nurses and doctors have to do, then [those nurses and doctors]  must not be following  the rules [protocol]. 

In public health there has always been a tension between using messages that empower people,  and blaming people for failures.  AIDS, Smoking, Diabetes, Obesity, Teen Pregnancy.....( I wrote about a while back)

What is lacking rather completely from the content and tone of just about all the messaging from experts and the media coverage of Ebola is a social or behavioral justice story.  Adler and Stewart present such a model regarding obesity (2009, Milbank).  Their study, "Reducing Obesity: Motiving Action While Not Blaming the Victim"concludes:
A behavioral justice approach to communicating can "convey the principle that individuals are responsible for engaging in health-promoting behaviors but should be held accountable only when they have adequate resources to do so. This perspective maintains both individuals' control and accountability for behaviors and society's responsibility to provide health-promoting environments."