communication

Some things just do not want to die. In public health, anti-vaccination movements keep sizzling debates, just as they did in the XIX century. At the same time,  the “deficit model” of science communication – the myth that the “public” is just ignorant and that it would support science, if spoon-fed information from the ivory tower – still haunts the relationship between health, science and the community, despite having been repeatedly debunked. The two zombies are more related than one could believe. Vaccine hesitancy and anti-vaccination movements grow in the cracks between trust and knowledge, and these are the fault lines that communication should heal – or rip apart, if it fails.

​Abraham T. Eur J Public Health. 2013 Oct 1;23(1).

Post SARS, the WHO and other organizations charged with public health in different parts of the world began to focus on the task of refining emergency risk communication strategies and principles. Based on the experience of communication during SARS, as well as earlier infectious diseases such as Nipah and Ebola, the WHO identified five critical best practices for effective outbreak communication.

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How many ways are there to communicate science in society today? New and promising communication opportunities are rising fast, thanks to different media: web, social networks, graphic journalism like the webcomic strip dedicated to the potential public health issue represented by Zika during the Olympic Games in Brazil 2016 and even a board game like Pandemic Legacy.

Effective science communication, especially when engaging with genuine two-way discussions with audiences, is quite a complex issue, and far from simple to study. Much of what works and what doesn’t is highly dependent on contingent factors, from what specifically is being communicated, to the social dynamics around the issues, to the political context in which the engagement occurs. This makes deriving general insights and lessons that can be applied across the board particularly challenging.

Immunization rates in Italy are decreasing at a worrying trend: international targets for measles eradication and safety thresholds in childhood vaccination are vanishing. Authorities, doctors and families are concerned that a coverage below 86% for MPR (measles, parotitis and rubella) vaccine can impair herd immunity, putting younger babies, immunocompromised people and not-responders at risk.

Some countries are slowly moving toward the implementation of a two-way PH communication strategy. For example, in May 2010, shortly after the H1N1 pandemic, the public health authorities of New Zealand designed a rapid response initiative to have feedback from population on the communication campaign and on their risk perception. The project consisted in a study, which aimed to retrieve evidence-based information which health authorities could use to design tailored health communication campaigns during/after periods of pandemics.

In 1991, a first mediation program was initially conceived by the Romani Criss NGO mainly focused as a conflict mitigation project. Mediators were being trained to improve communication between Roma communities, non-Roma population and local authorities. In 1996, supported by the Catholic Centre against Famine and for Development (CCFD), the NGO reoriented the program to a health-focused mediation, principally aimed at improving social conditions for Roma and facilitating communication between Roma communities and medical providers.

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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
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Promotion of immunization for health professionals in Europe
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Medical ecosystem – personalized event-based surveillance
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Knowledge-based policy-making on issues involving science, technology and innovation, mainly based upon the practices in Parliamentary Technology Assessment
Assessment of the current pandemic preparedness and response tools, systems and practice at national, EU and global level in priority areas
Analysis of innovative public engagement tools and instruments for dynamic governance in the field of Science in Society
Public Engagement with Research And Research Engagement with Society
Computing Veracity – the Fourth Challenge of Big Data
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Establishing an open dialogue between stakeholders concerning synthetic biology’s potential benefits and risks
Transparent communication in Epidemics: Learning Lessons from experience, delivering effective Messages, providing Evidence