With the 2014 Ebola outbreak serving as a real-life global scenario, Fulton County Department of Health and Wellness recently met with 14 public health policy makers and public health communications officers from West Africa for a professional and cultural exchange. As part of a U.S. State Department educational program, delegation members traveled to the U.S. from the nations of Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia and Sierra Leone to share real-life experiences and discuss best communications practices to use during public health emergencies.
Group members were particularly interested in working to improve their emergency preparedness and rapid response protocols in the event of another public health emergency such as Ebola.
The representatives shared their experiences of managing the Ebola pandemic, which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, claimed thousands of lives along Africa’s west coast and caused worldwide concern about travel to and from West Africa. While travel restrictions have recently been lowered, people planning to travel between the U.S. and West Africa should contact the CDC at www.cdc.gov or the U.S. State Department for up-to-date travel health advisories at www.travel.state.gov.
Atlanta-Fulton County Emergency Management Agency Director Matthew Kallmyer highlighted the success and complexities of emergency preparedness in metro Atlanta’s multi-jurisdiction that includes Fulton County, the city of Atlanta and parts of DeKalb County.
Members of the delegation cited a common challenge in their respective nations that was also faced by U.S. emergency management officials--calming fears and dispelling stigmas and myths surrounding Ebola.
The delegation was part of the International Visitor Leadership Program, which is under the auspices of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Serving as a professional and cultural exchange, the program brings 5,000 foreign nationals from all over the world to meet and confer with their professional counterparts and to experience America first hand.
The Georgia Council for International Visitors in conjunction with the Mississippi Consortium for International Development (MCID) hosted the African delegation.