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Ebola: exploring the cultural contexts of an epidemic

Thursday 8 October 2015, 12.30PM

Speaker(s): Zsuzsanna Jakab, Jeremy Farrar, Guenael Rodier and Joao Nunes

This seminar will be streamed live over the internet. The link is: and will be activated at 12.30 CEST (11.30 BST) on October 8. Anybody who wants to interact with the seminar, including posing questions to the speakers, will be able to tweet using the hashtag #GHHistories or email

Global Health Histories 91 Flyer (PDF , 464kb)

Event abstract: Almost two years on from the first known case in the current epidemic in West Africa, the end seems finally in sight. Talk about lessons learned is becoming louder, with the dominant discussions centred on the need for more robust health systems, better global mechanisms for disaster response and, most importantly, an effective vaccine against Ebola virus disease.

But much attention has also focused on the impact of cultural contexts and the failure to systematically engage with them. Local burial traditions were frequently cited as perpetuating the disease, while the organizational culture of WHO and its Member States was criticized for a slow public health response that privileged consultation over swift action.

The European health report 2015 describes how, through a project on the cultural contexts of health (CCH), the Regional Office is systematically investigating such issues. This seminar will explore CCH’s important role in the unfolding of the Ebola epidemic.

Join us to hear four world experts explore important questions from a variety of practical and theoretical perspectives: How did not only local communities’ customs and values but also foreign emergency-response workers’ cultural assumptions affect the work in the field? Did any cultural practices help build resilience in the face of catastrophe? How can future epidemic responses better engage with and adapt to the local communities they serve?

Part of the World Health Organization Global Health Histories Seminar series. Presented in association with the University of York's Department of History and supported by the Wellcome Trust. Please visit the World Health Organisation's website for more information on the Global Health Histories seminar series. Archives of past presentations, including audio files of many seminars, are available via the WHO’s and Centre for Global Health Histories’ websites.

Location: World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe

Admission: Broadcast live online. For more information and to register, please contact: