Addressing Communication Challenges During an Infectious Disease Emergency Response : State Experiences from the H1N1 Pandemic
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Addressing Communication Challenges During an Infectious Disease Emergency Response : State Experiences from the H1N1 Pandemic

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    Communication overload can be a major challenge during an emergency response as large amounts of information are directed at federal, state, and local health agencies from multiple sources. Risk communication principles dictate that one must be first, be right, and be credible, but it may be difficult to balance these principles in a time when information is rapidly changing. During the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, data and guidance changed quickly. States found it difficult to keep up with and take action on all of the information they were receiving. After the pandemic, they were able to reflect on what worked well during the response and what areas could be improved.

    This document draws from state experiences during the H1N1 pandemic response and discusses potential ways to address communication challenges that state health agencies (SHAs) may face when responding to an infectious disease outbreak, including tools available for more effective and efficient communications. These suggestions were compiled from evaluations of communications during the H1N1 pandemic, including three state after-action reports (New Jersey, Kentucky, and Iowa) funded by ASTHO.

    Federal, state, and local agencies need to achieve and maintain consistent communications practices and messaging during emergency responses, both internally and with stakeholders. Successful emergency responses can be achieved by using routine approaches plugged into emergency structures. It is essential to create a robust communications infrastructure before the system is tried by an emergency situation. SHAs can use the recommendations and tools provided in this document to inform and improve their communications infrastructure and plans.

    This document was made possible through funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Cooperative Agreement to Improve the Nation’s Public Health Infrastructure with State Public Health Agencies/Systems

    (Cooperative Agreement #U50/CC U313903‐05). ASTHO is grateful for their support.

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