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Am J Public Health. 2008 Dec;98(12):2214-22. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2006.107102. Epub 2008 Apr 1.

Communicating with the public about emerging health threats: lessons from the Pre-Event Message Development Project.

Author information

1
Saint Louis University School of Public Health, St. Louis, MO, 63104, USA. wray@slu.edu

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

We sought to better understand the challenges of communicating with the public about emerging health threats, particularly threats involving toxic chemicals, biological agents, and radioactive materials.

METHODS:

At the request of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we formed an interdisciplinary consortium of investigative teams from 4 schools of public health. Over 2 years, the investigative teams conducted 79 focus group interviews with 884 participants and individual cognitive response interviews with 129 respondents, for a total sample of 1013 individuals. The investigative teams systematically compared their results with other published research in public health, risk communication, and emergency preparedness.

RESULTS:

We found limited public understanding of emerging biological, chemical, and radioactive materials threats and of the differences between them; demand for concrete, accurate, and consistent information about actions needed for protection of self and family; active information seeking from media, local authorities, and selected national sources; and areas in which current emergency messaging can be improved.

CONCLUSIONS:

The public will respond to a threat situation by seeking protective information and taking self-protective action, underlining the critical role of effective communication in public health emergencies.

PMID:
18382011
PMCID:
PMC2636543
DOI:
10.2105/AJPH.2006.107102
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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