Learning from Zika: Lessons for future public health emergencies Washington dc | June 11, 2019

USAID and the Knowledge for Health (K4Health) Project hosted “Learning from Zika: Lessons for future public health emergencies” in Washington DC on June 11, 2019. Panelists shared effective practices and lessons learned from the USAID Zika response and discussed their applicability to future outbreak responses.

Irene Koek, Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator, USAID Global Health Bureau, opened the meeting by providing background on the USAID Zika response and highlighting achievements since 2016. Irene highlighted active, early engagement and communication, external and internal communication networks—such as the Zika Communication Network—and regional networks and alliances as key lessons learned from the response.


USAID implementing partners have implemented physical vector control activities in nearly 3,000 communities

2.5 million households have been inspected by trained vector control technicians

More than 330,000 individuals were directly reached with social and behavior change messages

Over 2,300 health care providers have been trained to provide psycho-emotional support to mothers and families affected by Zika

837 communities now have community action plans for preventing and controlling Zika

Panel: What you should know from the Zika response

Watch "What you should know from the Zika response" on The K4Health Facebook page
  • Moderator: Anne Ballard Sara, Program Officer II, K4Health
  • Erin Law, Global Zika Advisor, International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC)
  • Dr. Ariel Habed, Project Director, Community Action on Zika (CAZ), Save the Children
  • Paula Wood, Director, Zika AIRS Project (ZAP), Abt Associates

Panelists shared broadly applicable effective practices and lessons learned from the USAID-supported Zika response in relation to collaboration, knowledge management, capacity strengthening, and care improvement, coordination and integration.


Engage, mobilize, and listen to communities; build trust among partners/communities; ensure strong coordination among implementing partners and with ministries of Health and local actors; create and implement social and behavior change strategies from the beginning—including prioritizing behaviors; ensure the right people are involved and “at the table”; create working groups to support coordination and collaboration; be open and honest; document lessons learned; integrate with existing systems; be flexible and adaptable during a response.

What resonated with the audience?

Community involvement is key

Male engagement

Tailor solutions to communities

Coordination and collaboration among partners

Engage local actors

Buzz Stations

Buzz station hosts from nine implementing partners shared effective approaches from the USAID Zika response that created “Buzz” within the Zika responder community.

  • Selecting priority behaviors for impact, Breakthrough ACTION
  • Maximizing home visits through interpersonal communication, Breakthrough ACTION
  • Real time monitoring for behavioral surveillance, Breakthrough RESEARCH
  • Prepping supply chains for emergencies, Chemonics
  • Family planning to the rescue!, Maternal and Child Survival Program
  • Triangulating mosquito and human case data, MCDI
  • Stronger together: Connecting people & information, K4Health
  • Gender integration in health systems strengthening, WI-HER
  • Mapping & adapting a regional SBCC campaign, PSI/PASMO
  • Empowering women and youth as vector control agents, ZAP

What resonated with the audience?

Social and behavior change is critical from the start

Quickly develop key messages, identify key tools and go!

Leverage working groups to coordinate/collaborate and adapt as you go

Work within existing systems

Don’t forget the families behind the numbers. It’s not a “case of microcephaly”, it’s a child. It’s an affected family.

Provide clear, endorsed risk messages and tools for providers

Panel: Families First - Improving Services and Support for Affected Families

Watch "Families First - Improving Services and Support for Affected Families" on the K4Health Facebook page

The panel began with a USAID video, "Combating Zika: Hope for Teanny's Future". The video highlights the story of Arianny Polanco who was diagnosed with Zika while pregnant with her daughter, Teanny, who was born with microcephaly, a birth defect linked with the virus. Watch the video below.

Panelists shared how responders put families at the center by improving quality of health care services and support, not only for patients affected by the Zika virus, but also for those requiring care for other neurodevelopmental disorders.

  • Moderator: Dr. Julie Gerdes, Zika Technical Advisor, USAID
  • Graciela Avila, Chief of Party, Paraguay, ASSIST Project
  • Garren Lumpkin, Regional Consultant for Latin America and the Caribbean, UNICEF
  • Dr. Lisa Noguchi, Zika Response Team Lead, MCSP


Put families at the center; be compassionate; visualize and work towards a lifetime approach; provide accessible tools, resources and job aids to providers; listen to communities and providers; integrate Zika into existing programs and services (with family planning counseling for example); map stakeholders; collaborate with other sectors as part of a lifetime approach (including education sector); strengthen capacity among providers

What resonated with the audience?

Thinking beyond survival - help families thrive

Think from a life cycle approach

Include strategic communication

Integration is key!

Map existing services to support integration with current systems

Map the family journey

Adapt existing tools

Empower providers

If you were unable to attend the event you can view panel 1, "What you should know from the Zika response" and panel 2, "Families First - Improving Services and Support for Affected Families" on the K4Health Facebook page.

We help people around the world learn, share, and act on critical family planning and public health knowledge. K4Health is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Bureau for Global Health, Office of Population and Reproductive Health, and is led by the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs in collaboration with FHI 360, IntraHealth International, and Management Sciences for Health. Learn more at www.k4health.org.

Cover image: © 2005 Todd Shapera, Courtesy of Photoshare. All other images courtesy of David Alexander and Sloane Prince, Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs.

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