Online Program

Trends in risk communication for public health threats: From the Boston Marathon Bombing to Ebola

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Dhitinut Ratnapradipa, PhD, Public Health and Recreation Profession, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL
Fran Marshall, JD, MSPH, Columbia College, Columbia, SC
Kendra Ratnapradipa, MSW, Department of Epidemiology, College for Public Health & Social Justice, Saint Louis University, St Louis, MO
Background:  Risk communication involves translating complex or technical information into language that can be easily understood by the masses.  The goal should always be to put the risk associated with a situation into perspective.  The goal of this study is to summarize and explore success and failures in risk communication as it relates to environmental public health.  In any given public health situation, whether it is a disease outbreak or environmental release, public health officials have one chance to be relevant and to gain the public's trust.  Many factors go into the success (or failure) of that one chance.  Including risk communication in Incident Response Plans is crucial.  In order for it to be effective, it must be planned for and practiced.  Another key factor is establishing relationships with traditional media.  They are the 'mouthpiece' that will disseminate information that you provided to them.  Another increasingly important tool in the field of public health response is social media.

Methods:  Review public health responses, media, and social media coverage of public health events during the past 5 years to identify (1) topics receiving media coverage; and (2) relative risk of the topic compared to the coverage received and (3) the perceived success or failure of risk communication.

Results: Comprehensive information will be tabulated in categories.

Conclusion:  Communicating risk is largely equivalent to communicating uncertainty.  But just because it is hard, does not mean that we shouldn't do it. This study will be able to provide analyzed case studies demonstrating successes and failures to public health officials who engage in the challenges of risk communication(s).

Learning Areas:

Administration, management, leadership
Communication and informatics
Protection of the public in relation to communicable diseases including prevention or control
Public health administration or related administration
Public health or related education
Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines

Learning Objectives:
Identify three recent public health risk communication topics Evaluate whether the initial risk communication message was successful

Keyword(s): Communication, Media

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have an upcoming publication in "Journal of Environmental Health" relating to risk communication about Ebola for environmental health professionals.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.