Health promotion has a key role to play in disease outbreaks and health emergencies because it can offer well-established bottom-up approaches that engage with people to be an active part of a response. International agencies did learn from their earlier mistakes in, for example, the recent Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa, even though an attempt to engage with communities was not initially widely implemented. Many agencies preferred to use pre-packaged approaches which had an emphasis on individual behavior changes and health care delivery. This had a questionable effect because disease outbreaks and health emergencies must actively communicate with and involve people to be successful. Health promotion practice recognizes the value of community capacity-building, participation and empowerment—aspects that are already intrinsic to many health promotion programs. An understanding of how this is achieved in practice will help agencies to find an appropriate way forward to involve and better communicate with communities when the next disease outbreak inevitably occurs.
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