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Crisis and risk communication: public health issues of hazard, outrage, and Ebola virus

Taber, Rachel (2014) Crisis and risk communication: public health issues of hazard, outrage, and Ebola virus. Master Essay, University of Pittsburgh.

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This essay presents issues pertinent to crisis and emergency risk communication for future public health leaders in the infectious disease field. The technique includes an educational component and methods to remove barriers to communication. The relevance of risk communication to the field is that this method facilitates the presentation of accurate information that the public can comprehend and act upon to make informed health decisions. Infectious disease experts understand the science inherent to a health hazard (e.g. pathogens) and are trained in public health practice. Informing the public about health risks is increasingly falling to public health leaders who have no training in effective communication methods. This means the public can misinterpret risks because they do not have, or do not comprehend, the information needed to calculate their risk. Additionally, experts calculate biological risks differently than the public. The public interprets risk as the hazard plus or minus the emotional termed “outrage” the hazard invokes. Social and psychological factors, as well as a person’s background and previous exposure, influence perceptions of risk. These aspects must be understood and overcome to allow for effective risk communication. A number of theories address why people react differently and provide insight into countering both outrage and social and psychological factors and the person delivering the message can also influence perception of risk. The spokesperson represents the experts and must be perceived as empathetic, honest, and knowledgeable to gain the public’s trust. Effective risk communication enables the public to comprehend the message, remember the material, act on recommendations, provide feedback, and help guide future programs and policies. Risk communication allows the public to safeguard their own health and provides information to improve future communication and to build programs and policies the public can embrace. Using the introduction of Ebola virus to the United States as an example of a health risk this essay presents some of the barriers to effective communication and introduces methods to overcome them.


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Item Type: Other Thesis, Dissertation, or Long Paper (Master Essay)
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Taber, Rachel
ContributionContributors NameEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairKingsley, Lawrence A.kingsley@pitt.eduKINGSLEYUNSPECIFIED
Committee MemberFelter, Elizabeth Madisonemmadison@mindspring.comUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Date: December 2014
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 2014
Submission Date: 24 November 2014
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Publisher: University of Pittsburgh
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Public Health > Infectious Diseases and Microbiology
Degree: MPH - Master of Public Health
Thesis Type: Master Essay
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Ebola, crisis, and, emergency, risk, communication
Date Deposited: 17 Aug 2015 19:54
Last Modified: 30 Mar 2022 10:56


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