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Predicting Response to Reassurances and Uncertainties in Bioterrorism Communications for Urban Populations in New York and California
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    Recent national plans for recovery from bioterrorism acts perpetrated in densely populated urban areas acknowledge the formidable technical and social challenges of consequence management. Effective risk and crisis communication is one priority to strengthen the U.S.'s response and resilience. However, several notable risk events since September 11, 2001, have revealed vulnerabilities in risk/crisis communication strategies and infrastructure of agencies responsible for protecting civilian populations. During recovery from a significant biocontamination event, 2 goals are essential: (1) effective communication of changing risk circumstances and uncertainties related to cleanup, restoration, and reoccupancy; and (2) adequate responsiveness to emerging information needs and priorities of diverse populations in high-threat, vulnerable locations. This telephone survey study explored predictors of public reactions to uncertainty communications and reassurances from leaders related to the remediation stage of an urban-based bioterrorism incident. African American and Hispanic adults (N=320) were randomly sampled from 2 ethnically and socioeconomically diverse geographic areas in New York and California assessed as high threat, high vulnerability for terrorism and other public health emergencies. Results suggest that considerable heterogeneity exists in risk perspectives and information needs within certain sociodemographic groups; that success of risk/crisis communication during recovery is likely to be uneven; that common assumptions about public responsiveness to particular risk communications need further consideration; and that communication effectiveness depends partly on preexisting values and risk perceptions and prior trust in leaders. Needed improvements in communication strategies are possible with recognition of where individuals start as a reference point for reasoning about risk information, and comprehension of how this influences subsequent interpretation of agencies' actions and communications.

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    A1313-21/22/PHS HHS/United States
    BIT1/Intramural CDC HHS/United States
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