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Special issue of Health Security highlights latest science in public health emergency and risk communication

Center News

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June 26, 2018 – Effective communication is vital to ensuring people’s safety during all types of public health emergencies—from Ebola and Zika to hurricanes and wildfires. As the communication landscape continues to evolve, practitioners tasked with crafting and disseminating public health messages must keep pace.

The latest science offers valuable direction on where to focus those efforts. It’s the theme of the May/June 2018 issue of Health Security, “Communication and Health Security: Improving Public Health Communication in Response to Large-Scale Health Threats,” which features 5 articles and a commentary on communication in emergencies with implications for public health.

Tara Kirk Sell, PhD, served as the issue’s special feature editor. She is a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“Although the science supporting public health emergency and risk communication has advanced, new research is needed to support public health messaging in the changing communication landscape faced by public health officials today, as information sources expand along with competition for the trust and attention of the public,” writes Sell in her introductory editorial. “Researchers in the field of public health emergency and risk communication have an opportunity to make concrete impacts on practice by providing the evidence base for new communication approaches used by public health communicators.”

Articles in this special issue offer diverse, thorough analysis illustrative of the most ambitious science in the field. The articles include:

  • “Coverage of Epidemics in American Newspapers Through the Lens of the Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication Framework”
  • “Coordinated Communications and Decision Making to Support a Regional Severe Infectious Disease Response”
  • “How the US Population Engaged with and Prioritized Sources of Information about the Emerging Zika Virus in 2016”
  • “The Disaster Information Needs of Families of Children with Special Healthcare Needs: A Scoping Review”
  • “A Conceptual Model for Evaluation of Emergency Risk Communication in Public Health”

The commentary piece, “Lessons from Hawaii: A Blessing in Disguise,” examines an erroneous public alert about an imminent ballistic missile strike to highlight important components of public alert systems that could save lives by more effectively informing the public in the event of a nuclear detonation.

The full issue is available at

About Health Security:
Health Security, published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., is a bi‐monthly peer‐reviewed journal, now in its 16th year of publication. It serves as an international forum for debate and exploration of the key strategic, scientific, and operational issues posed by biological weapons, pandemics and emerging infectious diseases, natural disasters, and other threats to global health. The journal provides multidisciplinary analyses and perspectives essential to the creation of strategies and programs that can diminish the consequences of health emergencies, epidemics, and disasters. Center Director Tom Inglesby, MD, is the journal’s editor-in-chief, and Center Director of Publications Jackie Fox is managing editor.

About the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security:
The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security works to protect people from epidemics and disasters and build resilient communities through innovative scholarship, engagement, and research that strengthens the organizations, systems, policies, and programs essential to preventing and responding to public health crises. The Center is part of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and is located in Baltimore, MD.