Chapter 7. Situation Analysis (Step 1)

A good situation analysis provides a detailed picture of the current state of the health problem or behavior the campaign is trying to address. This information is crucial for making decisions about what the SBCC strategy will entail and how it will be implemented. Ultimately, it affects how successful the strategy is.

A situation analysis is a study that identifies trends, forces and conditions related to problems. In the case of Ebola communication, it helps teams gain a deeper understanding of the opportunities available, challenges to address and barriers to change. A situation analysis examines: the people affected and their needs, social and cultural norms, potential constraints on individual and collective change, potential facilitators of individual and collective change, and the audiences’ access to and use of communication channels (such as brochures, television and SMS). It also examines the status of the behavior in question, including the knowledge and practices of the audiences, as well as policies that impact the behavior. In short, a situation analysis answers the question, “Where are we now?”

How to conduct a situation analysis

First, decide on a framework for presenting findings in a useful way. Here is a simple framework to help focus the search for information.

Audience and Communication Analysis

Individual family- and community-level

Health system-level

Societal- and political-level

For more specific step-by-step instructions on conducting a Situation Analysis, see How to Conduct a Situation Analysis and How to Conduct a Root Cause Analysis.

A situation analysis should help to answer the following questions:
  1.  What is it about the situation—in terms of Ebola cases and their location—that demands a rapid and coordinated Ebola intervention?
  2. What are the current social practices in this community/country around caring for the sick and around burial practices?
  3. Who are the trusted sources and appropriate channels for health information?
  4. What community resources and structures are in place that can be engaged in the Ebola response?
  5. Who are the health personnel who need to be trained and mobilized? Are there specific communication skills that they need?
  6. What is being done to keep basic health services safe and free of Ebola cross infection? Will basic health services remain open? If not, what should people be doing with non-Ebola health emergencies?
  7. What are the basic needs (foods, money, water) for people, in case they are under quarantine?
  8. What are the costs, or perceived costs, for health-seeking behaviors?
  9. What are the best ways to reach priority groups with messages and interventions on Ebola knowledge, identification and monitoring of symptoms, and treatment and safe practices?
  10. What do people know about Ebola (prevention and symptoms) and what rumors need to be addressed?
  11. What communication interventions and messaging are already occurring?
  12. What are the common myths and misconceptions about Ebola and how are they being addressed and monitored?  
  13. What processes are in place to incorporate community feedback about the strengths and weaknesses of a communication response to SBCC program managers and other decision makers?
  14. What are the national-, regional-, or district-level methods for warehousing communication-related information and sharing it broadly with other program managers and/or decision makers?
  15. What are the logistics available to print material quickly on a large scale, transport and feed volunteers and social mobilizers, and run roadshows and other engagement activities?
  16. What policies, plans and resources are already available, and how can more be obtained for surge capacity?

Additional Resources

For more information on conducting focus group discussion, see the Research section in the Ebola Communication Network.

Illustrative Example: Situation Analysis

View an example of a situation analysis for an Ebola communications campaign.

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