Transparent communication in Epidemics: Learning Lessons from experience, delivering effective Messages, providing Evidence

TELL ME is a 36 month Collaborative Project, aimed to provide evidence and to develop models for improved risk communication during infectious disease crises. TELL ME combined public health, social sciences, behavioral sciences, political sciences, law, ethics, communication and media, in order to develop original communication strategies regarding complicated messages and advice based on uncertainties, also addressing vaccine-resistant groups. 

During infection outbreaks, one of the major problems has always been to communicate with the population in order to influence behaviors, reduce the spread of disease and avoid panic. For centuries the communication strategy adopted by authorities dealing with infectious outbreaks was chiefly based on denial and verbal reassurances, followed, in a further phase, by restrictive measures (quarantine, isolation, compulsory hospitalization) and sanctions for non compliant individuals. The increasing recognition that human behaviour critically influences infectious disease transmission led to concentrate efforts on education and prescriptive messages.

Yet recommendations were soon recognized as insufficient, people needed to be also “persuaded” by emotional messages. The focus then shifted on public health propaganda. As the rapid and tumultuous progress in biological sciences, computer sciences, information technologies, and the naissance of a global public health governance, are offering new, surprising, opportunities for the containment of infectious disease outbreaks, there is the danger that we fail to take advantage of these opportunities, only getting their “adverse effects”. We need instead to understand how maximizing opportunities and minimizing risks, notably we should learn to exploit the huge potential that the info society may offer in terms of evidence based and participatory communication. This is the first lesson, that one should get from communication failures occurred during the 2009 influenza H1N1 pandemic. A real paradigm shift has occurred, new challenges must be addressed, new models should be developed: this is the pivotal concept that has driven the consortium to propose the TELL ME project.

MMLAP and other EU Projects

Health system analysis to support capacity development in response to the threat of pandemic influenza in Asia
Making society an active participant in water adaptation to global change
Public Participation in Developing a Common Framework for Assessment and Management of Sustainable Innovation
Effective communication in outbreak management: development of an evidence-based tool for Europe
Developing the framework for an epidemic forecast infrastructure
European monitoring of excess mortality for public health action
Modelling the spread of pandemic influenza and strategies for its containment and mitigation
Cost-effectiveness assessment of european influenza human pandemic alert and response strategies
Bridging the gap between science, stakeholders and policy makers
Promotion of immunization for health professionals in Europe
Towards inclusive research programming for sustainable food innovations
Medical ecosystem – personalized event-based surveillance
Public Engagement with Research And Research Engagement with Society
Computing Veracity – the Fourth Challenge of Big Data
Transparent communication in Epidemics: Learning Lessons from experience, delivering effective Messages, providing Evidence