Infectious disease outbreaks in the United States have recently brought the importance of effective messaging to the forefront of crisis and risk communication.
Yan Jin, Hyoyeun Jun, and Glen Nowak of the University of Georgia, Lucinda Austin of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Santosh Vijaykumar of Northumbria University studied communication tactics regarding infectious disease threats in the United States. Phone interviews of 40 public health information officers were conducted to determine their perceived communication challenges, communication considerations, and media use, their message assessment strategy, risk amplification perception, and ethical challenges.
The responses were reviewed using the Risk Amplification through Media Spread (RAMS) framework. This framework is used to identify the risk communication processes, media pathways, and social media roles used to report IDCs to the general public.
The study found that communication demands included speed, accuracy, and awareness among the general public and specific groups. PIOs are applying the core concepts of the RAMS framework to develop clear messaging that addresses the above concerns.
Although the RAMS framework is being applied, PIOs are still facing challenges when developing messaging that is understandable and motivational to the public. The challenges include conveying risk and risk severity, reaching specific groups quickly, lack of trust in government officials, effectively addressing rumors and misinformation, and lack of resources.
Further studies should account for the way in which the public responds and shares the messaging. It should also examine the influence PIOs of different levels have on IDTs and the manner in which the information is communicated to the general public.
To read the full text of this study: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pubrev.2018.12.003
Jin, Y. (03/2019). Communicating about infectious disease threats: Insights from public health information officers Elsevier.