Transformative Education
for Health Professionals

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KickEbolaOut – a global campaign by medical students

Asad Naveed, Claudel P-Desrosiers, Stijntje Dijk, Ljiljana Lukic, Christy Braham, Abdul Jibril Njai, Pedro Dias, Schi Wei

Kick Ebola Out (KEO) exemplifies the outcomes and benefits of rapidly mobilizing students as a response to the current Ebola outbreak. Through local capacity building and international campaign, it empowers and engages students from different background to use their motivation and actively contribute to the urgent need in the local and international community. The utilization of eLearning and social media has become a highlight in this effort.

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(Read also the featured article here)

WHO declared the Ebola outbreak in West Africa a public health emergency of international concern. As of 17th october, the disease has resulted in 932 deaths among the 2977 confirmed cases in Sierra Leone alone1.

Sierra Leone has a shortage of health workers. The density of physicians is 0.2 per 10,000 population, far below the global figure2. There is only one medical school - College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS) at the University of Sierra Leone - in the country with a population of 6 million people. The number of students graduated each year ranges from 25-45. In the recent curriculum for health professionals, Ebola and general knowledge in infection control and prevention have not been emphasized.

Sierra Leone Medical Students’ Association (SLeMSA) initiated the KickEbolaOut (KEO) campaign to empower local medical students.  Since then, the campaign has caused a mobilisation wave through International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA) that are now working with their colleagues in the Ebola affected countries. A similar campaign is undertaken by students in Guinea, with the support from UNICEF.

In late August 2014, local officials from Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation showed their support by providing training for 50 volunteers from SLeMSA. The volunteers then performed a community outreach in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Not only was it a valuable learning opportunity, the students made and are still making a substantial contribution to the control of the outbreak through raising awareness among the community, busting the myths and spreading important messages in preventive measures against Ebola.

With this success, the global KickEbolaOut Working Group has been established in September, with members from more than 20 countries helping steward the campaign for maximum impact and thinking strategically about further steps needed to tackle Ebola and monitor the outcomes of the work.

KEO, through IFMSA, has access to an international network of medical students associations. Hence, KEO engages with students worldwide and reaches a global level of awareness.

The use of eLearning and social media is the highlight of the KEO campaign. The new media tools have allowed blended learning in public health issues, real time discussions, and equal opportunity of involvement for everyone regardless of their backgrounds. Webinars were arranged with medical students from West African countries sharing first-hand insight on response in their respective countries and how this has affected them and their education as future healthcare professionals. The spirit of KEO is spreading through the many social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and blogs, having a potential to reach millions of people.  All over the world, medical students echo by setting up activities and innovative campaigns in their own countries and universities. Examples include Rwanda, UK, Netherlands, Poland, France, Italy, Japan, Brazil.

SLeMSA is also liaising with external partners for more educational and campaign opportunities.  Research Center in Emergency and Disaster Medicine and Computer Science applied to Medical Practice (CRIMEDIM), a partner with IFMSA, showed its support by providing guidance and resources for making a mobile application.

A fundraising campaign is started to draw support from the public. The funds will allow the campaign to continue its local and international effort in capacity building of medical students and education for communities.

From KEO campaign, the motivation of students is evident. As future health workforce, they can get involved in the response to public health emergencies such as the current Ebola outbreak. They can lead the change, take actions and, by being aware of their limitations, take active steps into making themselves more competent and prepared for future challenges they will encounter when they graduate.

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