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Workshop on Risk Communications for Public Health Emergencies: Bridging the National Mechanism with Healthcare Workers

Project Period: Contact: Department: Programme: Theme:
2-4 September 2015 Governance & Economy Department ASEF Public Health Network Public Health

Langkawi, Malaysia

Since its launch in 2009, ASEF Public Health Network has contributed to strengthening ASEM partners’ capacity for managing public health emergencies through sharing best practices and analysing lessons learned. Risk communications for public health emergencies – including pandemics – is one of the common recommendations from a series of ASEF Public Health Network’s multi-sector pandemic preparedness and response workshops over the past years. Both health and non-health sectors underline the need for building capacity to manage communications before, during, and after health crises and for attaining policy and programme support for risk communications. At the previous 2 workshops organised in 2013 and 2014, several public health events were selected (E. coli, SARS/H5N1/H1N1 in Singapore, Japanese Tsunami and Earthquake, Christchurch Earthquake, Ebola Virus Outbreak) and participants underscored that more relevant cases should be discussed to strengthen preparedness for future health events. The Workshop Report from the 2014 workshop in Oslo, which featured presentations on Ebola Virus Outbreak, Christchurch earthquake and SARS/H5N1/H1N1, was published online in March 2015.

In 2015, ASEF Public Health Network organised another workshop "Risk Communications for Public Health Emergencies: Bridging the National Mechanism with Healthcare Workers." The workshop brought together 48 experts in public health and risk communications from government, private sector, academia, civil sector and international organisations. The workshop featured healthcare workers who worked on emergency response to Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS), 2015 Nepal earthquake and Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Participants evaluated the challenges and capacity needs in communications for real-life events. In this process of drawing lessons, participants identified core elements of risk communication strategies that will be useful in future public health emergencies.

The workshop report is avialble here.




  • Ministry of Health, Malaysia


  • Government of Japan

Project Updates

  • ASEF Public Health Network’s Workshop Risk Communications for Public Health Emergencies: Bridging the National Mechanism with Healthcare Workers  was held on 2-4 Sep 2015 in Langkawi, Malaysia in partnership with the Ministry of Health, Malaysia.

    48 experts in public health and risk communications attended this workshop and produced the following set of recommendations based on the 4 featured topics of the workshop:

    1) Risk Management Transparency: Rapid approval of warnings and advisories are key for timely communication; adherence to decision-making principles allows maintaining transparency.

    2) Communication Coordination: Identification of focal points and sharing risk communication strategies during public health crises enables better coordination structure.

    3) Dialogue with the Affected: Reflecting views and perceptions in the community back into emergency management decision-making, is a key in working with those are affected.

    4) Communication Evaluation: For an effective emergency risk communication evaluation, there should be clear objectives, a regular monitoring system and integration of risk communication perspective into preparedness strategies.

    The workshop report will soon be available on ASEF website.

  • The current Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak in South Korea brings back the memories of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which hit hard someEast Asian and Southeast Asiancountries back in 2003. Both experiences reveal that response to a pandemic often focuses on external management such as passenger screening and travel advisories. However, in Korea a hospital turned out to be an epicentre of the spread. This highlighted the importance of internal management between health authorities and the public as well as within the national response mechanism to prevent secondary infections.

    The Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) Public Health Network’s Workshop on Risk Communications: What to Learn from Real-life Cases in 2014 featured Singapore’s successful internal management to contain SARS. Even though SARS was over a decade ago, its lessons give us a timely insight into effective public engagement through risk communications for today’s MERS outbreak. One of the key lessons learnt was the importance of transparent and honest communication, which corresponds with the recommendations produced by the joint mission of WHO and Korea.

    Besides the importance of public engagement, another priority issue is the vulnerability of healthcare workers. Whether during the Ebola outbreak in Spain and the USA or MERS in Korea, healthcare workers who were treating the patients contracted the virus. This proves the increased vulnerability of healthcare workers through their day-to-day work, making them a likely victim of second infection. For both Ebola and MERS, there was criticism about the discrepancies between the required level of preparedness and actual daily operations in medical institutions.  As this gap continues to be a challenge in internal management, ASEF will hold a Workshop on Risk Communications: Bridging the National Mechanism with Healthcare Workers this September in Malaysia bringing in a multi-disciplinary group of experts from the fields of public health and risk communications to discuss recent cases of public health emergencies. The workshop report will be available online for download after the event.

  • The ASEF Public Health Network participated in the 3rd UN WorldConference on Disaster Risk Reduction, held on 14-18 March in Sendai, Japan. At the public forum on 17 March organised by WHO, UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNISDR and partners, ASEF presented its Public Health Network’s activities on risk communications for public health emergency as a contribution to international efforts towards disaster risk reduction.

    The public forum Protecting People’s Health from Disaster Risks featured over 25 experts from governments, international organisations and academics who shared best practices and lessons learnt from recent disasters. ASEF emphasised the importance of risk communications as a cross-cutting theme to be incorporated in the post-2015 disaster risk reduction framework. ASEF shared strategic recommendations for the public health community, developed from its previous workshops. ASEF also reiterated its commitment to facilitating knowledge exchange between Asian and European health professionals through workshops over the next 3 years.

    ASEF Public Health Network’s next workshop is scheduled for early September 2015 in Malaysia.

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