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Based on demand from government leaders, health agencies, and health security experts we implement projects that provide independent research to identify potential threats and develop evidence-based policy advice on potential ways to avoid or solve global health security risks.

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Persuasive Communications about Risks from and Response to Zika

The Center is conducting in-depth research on public health communication efforts for the Zika outbreak and developing evidence-informed recommendations intended to provide strategic input, potential language, and communication approaches for senior health officials at the state and federal level to be used in future public health emergencies.

The Center will study Zika communication practices, messages, and impacts through a multi-step process of environmental scan, expert interviews, news media content analysis, public polling, deliberative public sessions/focus groups, and message development with audience testing. The multi-faceted approach establishes a research-based platform from which to launch this inquiry (environmental scan), gathers information on current and innovative communication practices (expert interviews), examines current messages existent in the news media (news media content analysis), collects data on current public views about Zika and response efforts (online survey), develops a greater understanding of public views and values (deliberative sessions/focus groups), and tests sample messages that resonate with the American public (message testing).

Based on this research and collaborative work with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scientific staff, the Center will prepare practical advice for senior health officials regarding their strategy for communicating risks and response activities during future health emergencies in ways intended to strengthen public support and understanding. Ultimately, this research will help to improve communication and messaging to enhance the public understanding of risks in future outbreaks, increase public acceptance of responses during future health threats, and mitigate unnecessary backlash due to poor communication during major health crises.

Project team lead: Tara Kirk Sell, PhD, MA

Project team: Crystal Watson, DrPH, MPH; Monica Schoch-Spana, PhD; Sanjana Ravi, MPH; Diane Meyer, RN, MPH

Project supported by: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Date completed: Jan. 3, 2018



Our Mission

To protect people’s health from epidemics and disasters and ensure that communities are resilient to major challenges.