"Watch Out! Calm Down." The Goals of Risk Communication
You're working at the FDA, and you receive a preliminary report stating that Mad Cow Disease may have compromised a major beef distributor's supply. More tests need to be run to be sure, and the full report will take about two weeks. Do you wait for the full report, not wanting to start a panic? Or do you warn the public, even though the scare might not pan out? If you do warn the public, how do you communicate the findings of the report? People's lives and millions of dollars are on the line: what do you do? The right messages to the right people at the right time can save lives, and risk communication helps us think about how to convey sensitive messages about crucial issues from public health, to technological accident, to natural disaster. We will cover current thinking about the nature of risk, risk perceptions, theoretical perspectives on risk communication, and appliation of these theories to risk events in its real-life context. For example, we will examine such questions as: "Why do people continue to smoke despite knowing the health risks with the habit?," "Why people choose not to leave a high-risk environment, e.g., voluntary evacuation areas prepare for possibility of Hurricane Dorian?," "What are the most effective things the government/local leaders can do to get them out of harm's way?," and "How can we communicate controversial science effectively?"