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Recent years have seen advances in theories and models of risk and crisis communication, with a focus on emerging epidemic infection. Nevertheless, information flow remains unilateral in many countries and does not take into account the public’s polyvocality and the fact that its opinions and knowledge often “compete” with those of health authorities. This article addresses the challenges organizations face in communicating with the public sphere.
Our theoretical approach is conceptualized through a framework that focuses on the public sphere and that builds upon existing guidelines and studies in the context of health and pandemics. We examine how health organizations cope with the public’s transformation from recipients to an active and vocal entity, ie, how and to what extent health organizations address the public’s anxiety and concerns arising in the social media during outbreaks.
Although international organizations have aspired to relate to the public as a partner, this article identifies notable gaps.
Organizations must involve the public throughout the crisis and conduct dialogues free of prejudices, paternalism, and preconceptions. Thereby, they can impart precise and updated information reflecting uncertainty and considering cultural differences to build trust and facilitate cooperation with the public sphere. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2015;9:447–458)
This year alone has seen outbreaks of epidemics such as Ebola, Chikungunya, and many other emerging infectious diseases (EIDs). We must look to the responses of recent outbreaks to help guide our strategies in current and future outbreaks or we risk repeating the same mistakes. The objective of this paper was to conduct a systematic literature review of the methodology used by studies that examined EID communication during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic outbreak through different communication channels or by analyzing contents and strategies.
This was a systematic review of the literature (n=61) studying risk communication strategies of H1N1 influenza, published between 2009 and 2013, and retrieved from searches of computerized databases, hand searches, and authoritative texts by use of specific search criteria. Searches were followed by review, categorization, and mixed qualitative and quantitative content analysis.
Of 41 articles that used quantitative methods, most used surveys (n=35); some employed content analyses (n=4) and controlled trials (n=2). The 16 articles that employed qualitative methods relied on content analyses (n=10), semi-structured interviews (n=2) and focus groups (n=4). Four more articles used mixed-methods or nonstandard methods. Seven different topic categories were found: risk perception and effects on behaviors, framing the risk in the media, public concerns, trust, optimistic bias, uncertainty, and evaluating risk communication.
Up until 2013, studies tended to be descriptive and quantitative rather than discursive and qualitative and to focus on the role of the media as representing information and not as a medium for actual communication with the public. Several studies from 2012, and increasingly more in 2013, addressed issues of discourse and framing and the complexity of risk communication with the public. Formative evaluations that use recommendations from past research when designing communication campaigns from the first stages of crises are recommended. Research should employ diverse triangulation processes based on representatives from different stakeholders. Further studies should address the potential offered by social media to create dialogue with individuals and the public at large. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2015;9:199-206)
To examine their implementation, we analyzed World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines from 2005 to 2008 for risk communication during an emerging infectious disease outbreak, WHO and CDC reports on implementing the guidelines worldwide after the 2009 H1N1 pandemic; and a case study of a member state.
A qualitative study compared WHO and CDC guidelines from 2005 to 2008 with WHO and CDC reports from 2009 to 2011, documenting their implementation during the H1N1 outbreak and assessed how these guidelines were implemented, based on the reports and Israeli stakeholders (n=70).
Eight risk communication subthemes were identified: trust, empowerment, uncertainty, communicating the vaccine, inclusion, identification of subpopulations and at-risk groups, segmentation, and 2-way communication. The reports and case study disclosed a gap between international guidelines and their local-level implementation. The guidelines were mostly top-down communications, with little consideration for individual member-state implementation. The WHO and CDC recommendations were not always based on formative evaluation studies, which undermined their validity.
In formulating effective communication strategies, the first step is to define the goal of a vaccination program. We recommend implementing conceptual elements from the most current theoretical literature when planning communication strategies and increasing organizational involvement in implementing guidelines in future health crises. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2014;0:1–12)
When I was a fourth year medical student beginning a surgical rotation, I was assigned to the operating room of a chief whose reputation had earned him the name “The commander.” At a certain point in the procedure, the resident was called away leaving the intern and several medical students. The surgeon singled me out and ordered me to suture the patient. I protested, explaining this was my second day and I did not feel qualified. He yelled back that “the only way to learn is to plunge in.” As I hesitated he became enraged, slapped my shoulder and pushed me toward the table. I obeyed, despite serious misgivings, but when I made a minor mistake he struck my hand sharply with an instrument. For some time after I suffered with a bruised shoulder and a cut finger.
Law schools instruct their students that any un-consented-to touching constitutes a technical battery. Any threatening gesture, even when interrupted, which was meant to produce fear in the targeted party in torts law amounts to an assault, giving rise to a potential recovery even for what is effectively an incomplete battery.
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