October 13, 2014

Prof. William Crano working to halt the spread of Ebola in West Africa

Claremont Graduate University (CGU) psychology Professor William Crano is working with a California-based non-profit health information organization to help halt the spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa.

The organization, WiRED International, responded quickly in early July when the illness first began to spread, delivering its free Ebola health education material in both English and French to grassroots audiences in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Liberia, and the Ivory Coast.

William Crano
William Crano

Crano, CGU’s Oskamp Professor of Psychology and Director of the Health Psychology and Prevention Science Institute, is part of WiRED’s Ebola team, organizing and implementing the evaluation of WiRED’s training module. The modules are interactive learning tools that use straightforward language and infographics to teach the cause, prevention, and treatment of an illness. The material is publicly available through WiRED’s website, and a portable version can be downloaded for use on laptops.

Ebola, previously known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, is a rare and deadly disease that is spread by contact with body fluids of an infected person, by objects contaminated with the virus, or by interaction with infected animals. Symptoms include fever, stomach pain, unexplained bleeding, and muscle pain.

The 2014 Ebola epidemic is the largest in recorded history. As of the first week of October, about 8,400 cases of Ebola have been reported in seven countries, according to the United Nations. About 4,000 have resulted in death. All but a handful of those cases have been in the West African nations of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

People in remote areas of these countries often engage in behaviors that spread illnesses because they don’t know the causes or the steps to take when an infectious disease strikes a loved one. Generally, when people fall ill, resting at home is the logical remedy. However, with Ebola, the physical contact that results from this can cause an entire family to become infected. So, too, can the touching of infected animals or the tradition of ceremonial washing of bodies.

Helping them to understand basic methods of prevention is key to combatting the epidemic, Crano said.

Crano’s primary area of research examines influence and persuasion, and his work has guided national and international policy. He has served as an advisor to the United Nations, the Surgeon General, the National Institutes of Health, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the European Union, and the U.S. Department of Energy.

WiRED International is a volunteer-driven non-profit organization that has contributed to medical and health education in developing regions since 1997. The peer-reviewed Ebola module, as well as over 300 others on a wide variety of diseases, is available to anyone free of charge by accessing WiRED’s Community Health Education e-library at www.wiredhealthresources.net.