5114.0 What happened and how will it hurt my family: Promoting ongoing and rapid response risk communication during environmental crises

Wednesday, November 2, 2011: 10:30 AM
Statement of problem: Effective communication of environmental risk assessment and response presents an ongoing and persistent challenge, due to dynamic situations involving: 1) accidents stemming from complexity and age of industrial facilities and distribution systems, 2) increasing frequency of climate-related disasters affecting infrastructure & displacing populations, 3) vulnerability of food, transportation, public health and educational systems. Recent disasters in the Gulf and along the Mississippi River flood plain underscore the need for a rapid and understandable characterization and communication of risk to guide individual and systemic decision making in order to promote public health and safety. Background: Citizens and local and state governments must respond to unfamiliar information about exposure risks and cope with new data as additional risks emerge during evolving disasters. In some cases reliable, evidence-based risk communication is complicated by geographic isolation, disruption in communication and transportation systems, variable public health and science literacy and insufficient outreach infrastructure. Risk anxiety has emerged as a crucial factor influencing public perceptions in several recent disaster situations, most notably during immediate and sustained recovery activities after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike, and the (Macondo) Deep Water Horizon oil spill. In some cases, ambiguity, apparent contradictions or lack of transparency in assessment and communication of risk have eroded trust in the reliability of public health institutions charged with these responsibilities. Focus: This session will explore the following aspects of risk characterization and communication in several settings, including sustained engagement as well as rapid and flexible responses to emerging disasters: 1) Regional specificity of toxics or climate disaster crises, 2) Major factors affecting rapid response risk characterization and communication, 3) Effective strategies that address ongoing needs for communication about environmental risks and exposure prevention with a variety of age groups, 4) Necessity for developing an integrated outreach and risk communication infrastructure network to allow regulatory, research and issue-based non-profits to freely share information and assure honest, effective risk communication. This network is often the first group responding to initial alerts and providing a trusted community intermediary for dissemination of risk information and recommendations for minimizing exposure.
Session Objectives: 1. Identify major components/features of effective risk communication strategies and practice, pertaining to both ongoing and sustained efforts as well as rapid response to evolving public health situations, requiring flexibility, timeliness and cultural fluency. 2. Identify confounding factors inherent in situations that demand rapid response risk characterization and communication and outreach. 3. Describe dynamic models for risk communication that involve networking of grass roots community organizations and educational infrastructure with local outreach groups and public health/research institutions that can define and characterize exposure risk.

11:30 AM
Communicating risk from soil sediment contamination post-Hurricane Ike during storm recovery efforts in coastal Texas and Louisiana
John Sullivan, MA, Alexandra Nolen, MPH, PhD, Sharon Croisant, MS, PhD, Wilma Subra, Michael Jackson, MA and Jonathan B. Ward, PhD

See individual abstracts for presenting author's disclosure statement and author's information.

Organized by: Environment
Endorsed by: Vietnam Caucus

CE Credits: Medical (CME), Health Education (CHES), Nursing (CNE), Public Health (CPH) , Masters Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES)

See more of: Environment