The Role of Risk Communication in Pandemics
On 30 January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) under the IHR. On March 11 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak was labelled a global pandemic. Since then, no country has remained untouched and Risk Communication has been playing an essential part in pandemic response.
In 2022, ASEF PHN and Public Health Wales organised a high-level meeting on ”Risk Communication for PHEs: The Role of Risk Communication in Pandemics”. Since every country has had to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, the meeting aimed to cover the common challenges faced by ASEM Partners while implementing risk communication. Topics on the agenda included dealing with the politics of implementing risk communication; including migrants and ethnic minorities; communicating uncertainty; addressing the COVID-19 infodemic; effectively using social media; tackling vaccine hesitancy; translating science into action; and fostering two-way risk communication.
The overall aim of the high-level meeting was to strengthen countries’ capacity to support Risk Communication for PHEs. In doing so, it sought to provide a platform for the bi-regional exchange of best practices and lessons learnt related to Risk Communication during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
Specific objectives of the meeting were:
• To address the challenges in Risk Communication identified during the COVID-19 pandemic;
• To facilitate networking among Risk Communication practitioners across Asia and Europe, enabling the exchange of best Risk Communication practices and lessons learnt; and
• To determine the areas of international/intersectoral collaboration to improve Risk Communication for future public health emergencies.
The high-level meeting included the following audiences: i) Government officials in charge of health emergencies and emergency risk communication; ii) Government officials from sectors other than health that are involved in the COVID-19 pandemic response; and iii) representatives from civil society, including Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), International Organisations (IOs) and academia.