Operational research during the Ebola emergency

Gabriel Fitzpatrick, Tom Decroo, Bertrand Draguez, Rosa Crestani, Axelle Ronsse, Rafael Van den Bergh, Michel Van Herp

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Operational research aims to identify interventions, strategies, or tools that can enhance the quality, effectiveness, or coverage of programs where the research is taking place. Médecins Sans Frontières admitted ≈5,200 patients with confirmed Ebola virus disease during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and from the beginning nested operational research within its emergency response. This research covered critical areas, such as understanding how the virus spreads, clinical trials, community perceptions, challenges within Ebola treatment centers, and negative effects on non-Ebola healthcare. Importantly, operational research questions were decided to a large extent by returning volunteers who had first-hand knowledge of the immediate issues facing teams in the field. Such a method is appropriate for an emergency medical organization. Many challenges were also identified while carrying out operational research across 3 different countries, including the basic need for collecting data in standardized format to enable comparison of findings among treatment centers.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEmerging Infectious Diseases
Issue number7
Pages (from-to)1057-1062
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Africa, Western/epidemiology
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Ebolavirus
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola/epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Operations Research
  • Program Evaluation


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