THE HEALTH HACKATHON on Risk Communication

SIERRA LEONE EDITION

THE HEALTH HACKATHON on Risk Communication For West Africa

Sierra Leone Hackathon

 The Sierra Leone Health Hackathon On Risk Communication is a four-day event that is designed to bring together tech developers, risk communication and disease control professionals to brainstorm and design solutions that can enhance efforts in preparing for and responding to health emergencies and epidemics. These actors will convene together at the Sensi Tech Hub in Freetown, working together to conceive and rapidly develop new approaches. Platforms and solutions developed will address delays, missed opportunities and even tragedy that can come from poor communication of health information during health emergencies and epidemics. For instance, the teams may create new web- and mobile-based tools designed to address a specific need. They might find new ways to harness communication channels to ensure the effective spread of important and accurate health information.

Participants will receive inspiration, guidance, and input from experts from the health and risk communication sectors in Sierra Leone and the ECOWAS region.  The will also receive support from technology professionals and mentors that will be present throughout the four-day event.

Teams will present their prototypes for judging on the final afternoon, competing for a chance to develop their ideas further with support from Sensi Tech Hub, GIZ, GFA and the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) in Sierra Leone.

All participants will retain the right to develop their ideas after the event.

The event will be organized by Sensi Tech Innovation Hub in partnership with the MoHS on behalf of GFA Consulting Group GmbH and GIZ as part of the German Cooperation-financed Regional Program supporting Pandemic Prevention in the ECOWAS Region (RPPP)

The event is open to all tech developers, risk communication specialists, and disease control professionals. Registrants can be individuals from local universities, organizations and institutions across Sierra Leone who are motivated to participate in this intense incubation and acceleration of ideas.

 

Sierra Leone Risk Communication Contextual Background

The recent unexpected Ebola virus disease outbreak that devastated communities across Sierra Leone (2014–2016), brought to light major challenges and gaps in how risk is communicated and mitigated during health emergencies and epidemics in the country. There were difficulties in developing coordinated communication strategies that are inclusive of all key stakeholders and partners during emergencies and epidemics. Responses did not properly capitalise on rapid transformation in communications technology, including the penetration of mobile telephone and the widespread use – and increasingly powerful influence – of social media. Coordination with ‘traditional’ media such as newspapers, radio and television, was insufficient, and there were new, complex intersections across rumor management, misinformation and related ways of how people access and trust available health information.

Important gaps persist in understanding and implementing solutions in the context of Sierra Leone – particularly with regard to understanding the social, economic, political and cultural factors influencing perceptions of risk and their risk-reduction behaviors. Finally, guidance and structures are needed on the best approaches for strengthening the planning and implementation of emergency risk communication (ERC) capacities and sustaining them for potential future health emergencies and epidemics.