Building communication capacity is critical for the preparedness, detection and response to infectious disease threats. The International Health Regulations (IHR) establish risk communication as a core capacity that member states must fulfill to strengthen the fight against these threats. Despite global recognition of the importance of complying with IHR, 67% of signatory countries report themselves as not compliant. This lack of capacity has grave consequences as shown during the West Africa Ebola epidemic. The lack of communication infrastructure and procedures in place delayed the transmission of key messages from public health and government officials to the public. Furthermore, no mechanisms were in place for the public to share their questions, concerns and fears with public health authorities. By investing in communication capacity, public health and government officials would be prepared to provide advice, information and reassurance to the public once these events occur as well as to rapidly develop messages that are coordinated among all public and private sectors involved.Click edit button to change this text.
Many efforts have been implemented to address the gaps in communication capacity during these situations. However, most of them, despite being successful, have not been replicated or tested in different scenarios. Guidance has been provided with the development of frameworks, standards and protocols as well as many conceptual approaches to communication for outbreaks, but they have not been streamlined or integrated, or translated well into practice. Moreover, some of these guidance documents have not considered the entire political, social, and cultural environment in which communication occurs. There is a need to learn from what has been done and to identify how to use the evidence base to create a research agenda that will allow this field to move forward. By bringing together stakeholders at different levels of outbreak detection and response, this workshop will provide a venue to review progress and needs in strengthening communication capacity for dealing with infectious disease threats, both for outbreaks and routine challenges.
The workshop’s specific objectives are to:
• Examine the key elements of communication capacity necessary to address infectious disease threats, including:
Scientific foundations for effective communication
Roles of scientists and health professionals, the community, and media
Evidence-based methods for designing, pretesting, and evaluating of communication strategies
Multi-sector support for investment in these capabilities
• Examine the current state of science regarding public engagement and trust, the understanding of risk and health-protective behaviors, and behavioral responses, including:
The cognitive, affective, social, and economic factors shaping health-related decision making
The roles of persuasive vs. non persuasive communication
The roles of traditional and digital media
Proactive and reactive management of misinformation and rumors
Bidirectional communication platforms, both to engage the public and to generate data
• Assess the implications of the 2005 International Health Regulations (IHR) and lessons learned from recent outbreaks
• Discuss research needs, opportunities, and barriers for collaboration among, across, and within the epidemiology, biomedical, and social and behavioral science communities.