What you'll learn

  • Develop a state-of-the-science understanding of the individual, psychological, interpersonal, and societal factors that influence the: - Impact of risk communications on the public’s risk perceptions, knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors, including compliance  - Generation and communication of risk information during crisis and non-crisis periods
  • Apply this knowledge to designing effective risk communication messages drawing on the science of strategic communication and health communication
  • Become familiar with and practice methods for evaluating risk communication efforts

Course description

More than any other public health crisis in recent memory, the COVID-19 pandemic emphasizes the necessity of effective health and risk communication. With the epidemic reaching all corners of the globe, no population or industry has been untouched, resulting in many swift and powerful narratives about the consequences of COVID-19.

Whether in the midst of a global crisis like the COVID-19 epidemic or enduring more localized health impacts, every day public health information is generated and made available to the public about diseases, public policies, new products, and corporate behavior. People are accessing this information in real time via traditional news, online media, social media and word of mouth. The public’s near-instant access to this unfiltered information presents significant new risks, particularly surrounding misinformation, drawing conclusions from wrong or impartial information, and disinformation, deliberately spreading falsehoods to further an agenda. Additional risks include reputation damage for companies who aren’t responding effectively to COVID-19, have negative impacts on health or the environment, or ineffective policy outcomes when health-related guidance is misunderstood or ignored.

This applied program will provide you with the knowledge and skills you need to design effective risk communication messages that improve communication outcomes, increase trust in your organization, reduce public anxiety, and help key stakeholders make better decisions.

You will learn from some of the most notable scientists working on risk communication, crisis communication, public health emergencies, decision making, big data, and public health leadership – and how to apply cutting edge ideas in communicating risk in a complex information environment.

Leading experts will draw on both previous pandemics and COVID-19 to illustrate concepts in the program and explore implications for practice. This includes:

- Explicitly discussing misinformation and disinformation in the context of COVID-19

- How to effectively communicate risk during the emergence of an infectious disease

- Analyzing a case study on providing COVID-19 information to vulnerable communities

Associated Schools

  • Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

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