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Completed Projects

Persuasive Communications about Risks from and Response to Zika

Illustrations of Zika virus over a map

Focus area:

Emerging Infectious Diseases and Epidemics

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

The Center studied Zika communication practices, messages, and impacts through a multi-step process of environmental scan, expert interviews, news media content analysis, review of call center data, deliberative public sessions/focus groups, and message development with audience testing. The multi-faceted approach established a research-based platform from which to launch this inquiry (environmental scan), gathered information on current and innovative communication practices (expert interviews), examined current messages existent in the news media (news media content analysis), collected data on public questions about Zika and response efforts (analysis of CDC-INFO – CDCs national information center - data), developed a greater understanding of public views and values (deliberative sessions/focus groups), and tested sample messages that resonate with the American public (message testing).

Based on this research and collaborative work with CDC scientific staff, the Center prepared 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.

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

Resources: Frequency of Risk-Related News Media Messages in 2016 Coverage of Zika Virus (published in Risk Analysis)

Date completed: Feb. 28, 2019



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