Risk communication plays a vital role in mitigating the adverse impacts of a public health emergency. However, recent events have shown that risk communication is not easy to manage. Trust is a key element in the internal decision-making process, when informing the public, and in managing the relations between the authorities and the media. In addition, the increasing use of social media in communication and news gathering has completely changed the playing field.
The ASEF Public Health Network brought a number of stakeholders in risk communication from different sectors, ranging from communication experts at government agencies and international organisations, to private sector representative, health correspondents, and online opinion leaders. They analysed two recent public health emergencies, the E. coli case and the “Triple Disaster”, to identify challenges and gaps in current risk communication strategies. Subsequently, they developed recommendations to address these issues and make these recommendations future-proof by testing them against the ASEF-ASAP future scenarios.
The ASEF Public Health Network has taken a future-oriented scenario approach since 2010. The Network used a set of scenarios to develop strategic options, contributing to multi-sector pandemic preparedness and response. Recognising that many of the lessons learned from these exercises are also applicable to other public health emergencies, the Network aimed to address the issue of trust as well as the role of social media in risk communication for public health emergencies in order to make risk communication a more effective tool in risk management.