Overlooking the Obvious: Communication of Efficacy by the Mass Media During the Ebola Crisis in Liberia

Monique Mitchell Turner, Tamah Kamlem, Rajiv N. Rimal, Hina Shaikh, Nwanneamaka Ume

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The role of mass media during a public health crisis is an ineluctable part of providing the public with critical information rapidly, particularly messages about self- and response efficacy. However, little is known about the role local news media play in disseminating efficacy information during infectious disease outbreaks. Here, we use the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Liberia as a case to explore this question. We content analyzed newspaper and radio messages disseminated between March 2014 and March 2015, during the midst of the outbreak. Results show that both radio programs and newspaper articles mentioned over 21 prevention steps at some point, with noticeable differences within which disease prevention messages were communicated most frequently to the public. At least 1 mention of self-efficacy was identified in 31.5% of radio content (n = 127), 23.6% of radio programming (n = 55), and 10.6% of newspaper content (n = 745). Response efficacy, signifying effectiveness of preventive methods, was detected in 25.2% of radio (n = 127), 16.4% of radio programming (n = 55), and 15% of newspaper content (n = 745). This is important as efficacy reporting can impact public readiness to adopt preventative measures and affect beliefs about self- and response efficacy, ultimately decreasing chances of spreading the infection and poorer health outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)259-268
Number of pages10
JournalPrevention Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • Communication
  • Ebola
  • Health crisis
  • Liberia
  • Prevention message
  • Response efficacy
  • Self-efficacy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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