The importance of crisis and risk communications in public health leadership is incontestable (Finset, 2011). Public health leaders need to acquaint themselves with the latest and most effective crisis and risk communication practices because they help response teams to complete their jobs effectively (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services & Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014). In this regard, crisis and risk communication is a resource multiplier because it helps to coordinate the functions of different response teams. Risk communication is also important for a public health leader because it increases awareness about health issues. This advantage stems from the role played by risk communications in making the public know different health exposures that could affect their wellbeing. By understanding them, people could know how to protect themselves from these exposures and how to use available health interventions to lower the effects of adverse health exposures (Finset, 2011).
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The proposed Ebola public health program could benefit from effective crisis and risk communication because there is mistrust between community members and health officials in Sierra Leone (World Health Organization, 2015). Indeed, crisis and risk communication practices are important in boosting public confidence about proposed health interventions. This statement comes from research studies undertaken by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2014), which show that high public confidence stems from quick operational responses from response teams. Such quick responses only come from adopting effective crisis and risk communication principles. This advantage would be beneficial to the proposed Ebola public health campaign because communicating the health risks of Ebola and implementing a sound crisis management plan to lower new infections would increase trust between health officials and residents of Sierra Leone. This is one way that crisis and risk communication could benefit the Ebola public health campaign.
The costs of failing to use crisis and risk communication systems are high. For example, an ineffective risk communication plan could lead to new infections because people would not understand their risk exposures (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services & Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014). Therefore, they would continue to expose themselves to harm, without knowing the effects of their actions. The lack of a crisis communication plan could also lead to panic in society. This outcome may lead to further social disorder and chaos, especially if people do not understand the epidemiology of the diseases affecting them (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services & Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014). Furthermore, the lack of a crisis communication plan may cause an increase of conspiracy theories about a health issue. This may lead to health misinformation and a further spike in new infections. Based on these dynamics, an effective risk communication plan helps to educate people about a health issue, thereby minimizing new infections and reducing the spread of misleading information in society. Such contributions would be useful in the Sierra Leone Ebola campaign because the society is highly superstitious and without proper health information, people could adopt retrogressive cultural practices that would exacerbate its spread. Comprehensively, the potential consequences of not using crisis and risk communications are increased infection rates and the spread of misleading public health information. Nevertheless, given the changing nature of modern-day health challenges, future studies need to probe the limitations of time and spatial scales on risk and crisis communications.
Finset, A. (2011). Risk perception and risk communication. Patient Education and Counseling, 82(1), 1–2.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services & Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Crisis & Emergency Risk Communication: By Leaders for Leaders. Web.
World Health Organization (WHO). (2015). Sierra Leone: a traditional healer and a funeral. Web.