Project Example

Environmental and Behavioral Determinants of Lassa Fever: A qualitative exploration among communities and health care workers in Tonkolili and Kenema districts, Sierra Leone

Local health authorities have classified Lassa fever as a priority zoonotic disease in many sub-Saharan African countries, including Sierra Leone. While much research has been published about Lassa fever, it has primarily focused on clinical diagnosis and epidemiological surveillance. Few studies are available globally on the sociocultural and behavioral drivers of Lassa fever, and particularly from Sierra Leone.

This study— conducted by Breakthrough ACTION, based at Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs, in collaboration with the Sierra Leone One Health Risk Communication Technical Working Group (OHRC TWG)—explored community members’ perceptions, knowledge, and behaviors associated with rodents in general and rats that carry Lassa fever specifically.

Specific research objectives included describing and understanding the following:

  1. The context of Lassa fever in affected communities.
  2. Individual and community norms and behaviors that increase risk and vulnerability for Lassa fever.
  3. Personal experiences with rats during daily living and with Lassa fever sickness.
  4. The level of knowledge and awareness of Lassa fever among community members.
  5. Knowledge of what to do if one suspects that they or someone else has Lassa fever.
  6. Knowledge of ways to prevent Lassa fever among community members.
  7. Individual perceptions of behavioral and other drivers of Lassa fever.

The study results also support the following:

  1. Developing credible sources of information about the risk and transmission of Lassa fever.
  2. Generating findings to serve as a reference point for One Health sectors including the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MOHS), Environmental Protection Agency, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, and other health agencies working to strengthen sensitization to Lassa fever in the country.
  3. Mitigating potential rumors and misinformation about Lassa fever.
  4. Identifying credible sources and/or developing credible materials to promote behavior change.

This report summarizes key findings on the social and behavioral drivers of Lassa fever in the Kenema and Tonkolili districts of Sierra Leone.

Source: Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs

Date of Publication: February 3, 2023