Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Trust After Ebola

Beyond the lives lost and livelihoods destroyed, the Ebola epidemic in West Africa has laid bare the deadly role that distrust of government can play in allowing an otherwise easily preventable virus to spiral out of control. In collaboration with the MIT Governance Lab we conducted a panel survey of Monrovia residents to help target Ebola recovery and response and to identify potentially promising mechanisms for regaining citizens’ trust both during and after the epidemic. Our results show that Liberians who distrust government were significantly less likely to adopt measures that might have slowed the spread of the virus, such as washing their hands with chlorinated water. They were also significantly more likely to break the government-imposed curfew and ban on public gatherings, and were significantly less likely to support other policies designed to contain the epidemic. We also find, however, that government-sponsored community task forces were extremely effective not only in increasing compliance with public health measures, but also in restoring citizens’ trust.

Related Publications:

“Patterns of Demand for Non-Ebola Health Services During and After the Ebola Outbreak: Panel Survey Evidence from Monrovia, Liberia” (with Karen Grepin, Benjamin Morse and Lily Tsai). BMJ Global Health 1 (2016): e000007. PDF

Patterns of Trust and Compliance in the Fight Against Ebola: Results from a Population-Based Survey of Monrovia, Liberia (with Benjamin Morse and Lily Tsai). International Growth Centre (2015). PDF

“Public Health and Public Trust: Survey Evidence from the Ebola Epidemic in Liberia” (with Benjamin Morse and Lily Tsai). Under review.