1st Edition

Risk Communication and Infectious Diseases in an Age of Digital Media

    188 Pages
    by Routledge

    198 Pages
    by Routledge

    In a digital world where the public’s voice is growing increasingly strong, how can health experts best exert influence to contain the global spread of infectious diseases? Digital media sites provide an important source of health information, however are also powerful platforms for the public to air personal experiences and concerns. This has led to a growing phenomenon of civil skepticism towards health issues including Emerging Infectious Diseases and epidemics.

    Following the shift in the role of the public from recipients to a vocal entity, this book explores the different organizational strategies for communicating public health information and identifies common misconceptions that can inhibit effective communication with the public. Drawing on original research and a range of global case studies, this timely volume offers an important assessment of the complex dynamics at play in managing risk and informing public health decisions.

    Providing thought-provoking analysis of the implications for future health communication policy and practice, this book is primarily suitable for academics and graduate students interested in understanding how public health communication has changed. It may also be useful to health care professionals.

    Introduction: The Transformation of Emerging Infectious Disease Communication in the New Media Age Chapter 1. The Public Sphere and Health Communication in the Context of Emergent Infectious Diseases Chapter 2. The Challenge of Digital Media for Health Organizations Chapter 3. Organizational Policy and Practice Chapter 4. Strategies for Communicating Health Information and Risk Chapter 5. The Role of Medical Experts and Health Journalists Chapter 6. The Public's Understanding and Decision Making Regarding Science and Risk Chapter 7. Observations and Lessons: Managing Health Risks in the Age of Digital Media


    Anat Gesser-Edelsburg is a senior lecturer, the head of the Health Promotion department at the School of Public Health and the founding director of the Health and Risk Communication Research Center at University of Haifa, Israel.

    Yaffa Shir-Raz is a senior health journalist, a health and risk communication researcher at the University of Haifa, and a lecturer in Sammy Ofer School of Communication, IDC Herzliya, Israel.

    Whether the outbreak is one of Ebola, or Zika, or another infectious agent, health authorities scramble to communicate with their diverse publics about elements of risk, decisional choices, and actions required. With the advent of real-time digital media platforms, social media outlets, and ubiquitous mobile devices, the public dynamically participates in the co-creation of what constitutes risk, for whom, with what consequence, and requiring what action. This co-creation is a complex, dynamic, and emergent process, and this book provides invaluable insights, among many, into how "wisdom of the crowd" can be harnessed in ways that can spell the difference between life and death. A must read for those interested in the interface of infectious disease, communicating risk, and the potential and pitfalls of social media.

    Arvind Singhal, Ph.D. is the Marston Endowed Professor of Communication at the University of Texas at El Paso and appointed Professor 2 at Hedmark University of Applied Sciences, Norway.



    Ground-breaking - if only this work had been available, understood and applied in early 2014 at the beginning of the West African Ebola epidemic both the human toll in lives lost and the excesses of the following Fearbola events could have been significantly curtailed. In such outbreaks when vaccines and effective counter-measures are not yet available, effective communication is our strongest asset and by drawing on the combined informed input of the "public" we can better insure optimization of these public health interventions. This work should be required reading for medical and media professionals alike.


    James J. James, M.D., is the Executive Director of the Society for Disaster Medicine and Public Health and Adjunct Professor at the University of Georgia




    The authors take a controversial position on controversies regarding scientific evidence, namely, that lay skepticism about scientists’ claims is not always indefensible. Paying particular attention to the role of new media, the authors take a broad perspective in asking how the public and the experts can achieve warranted mutual respect, recognizing the commonalities and conflicts in their interests. The authors pursue that question vigorously, drawing broadly on academic research from social science and the humanities, illustrated with engaging historical and topical examples

    Baruch Fischhoff, Howard Heinz University Professor, Carnegie Mellon University


    The essence of this book is splendidly embedded in its title, which suggests, with a subtle play of words, that new media are modifying 'communication' of infectious diseases. Infectious diseases are indeed communicable in two senses, because they can be transmitted and because they are spoken. The authors wisely introduce the reader into metaphors surrounding infectious diseases and the way in which new media are shaping them. This is a great, fascinating, book, which raises critical questions about health risk communication and helps us re-think many current, obsolete, standards

    Emilio Mordini, Responsible Technology, France; chair of the Risk Communication working party of the Collaborative management platform for detection and analyses of re- emerging and foodborne outbreaks in Europe (COMPARE)