WHO releases first evidence-based guidelines on emergency risk communication

WHO has released the first evidence-based guidelines on emergency risk communication. Communicating risk during public health emergencies provides Member States, partners and stakeholders involved in emergency preparedness and response with evidence-based guidance and recommendations on how risk communication should be practised in a health emergency.

During public health emergencies, risk communication is crucial in ensuring that people are informed about the health risks they face and how they can deal with them to protect their lives, health, families and communities. Providing accurate information early and often, using language and channels people understand, trust and use, enables them to make choices that can protect their lives and well-being. The guidelines provide evidence-based and up-to-date guidance for emergency risk communication.

The recommendations are based on both academic structured evidence and on “grey literature”, to ensure that the lessons learned from recent emergencies, such as the West African Ebola virus disease outbreak in 2014–2015 and the global Zika virus outbreak in 2015–2016, were captured and explored fully.

The guidelines also support countries in building capacity for communicating risk during health emergencies in the context of the International Health Regulations and the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework.

In the WHO European Region, emergency risk communication capacity-building has been scaled up since 2014, with training having been conducted in 30 countries over 2 years. In 2017, WHO/Europe launched an innovative 5-step package on emergency risk communication to offer European countries tools and on-the-ground support, ranging from training and capacity assessment, to plan writing, testing and adoption. 10 European countries have already been implementing the package and more are planning to do so in the near future.