COMPARE communication ecosystem

Risk communication in the COMPARE project

Tuesday 05 May 15


Emilio Mordini
Responsible Technology

Emilio Mordini (Responsible Technology) describes the connection between the COMPARE project and risk communication.

One of the main goals of COMPARE is predicting the risk of emerging pathogens with outbreak potential. The project is not expected to interact directly with the public, except in the general sense - shared with all EC funded projects - that its main results must be available to the public. Yet COMPARE is expected to produce “Actionable Information”, which is information that enables users (i.e., relevant authorities in the human health, animal health and food safety domains) to take well-informed decisions and actions. Actionable Information includes critical decisions and actions that concern communicating to the public the potential risk of novel outbreaks.

In other words, while COMPARE will not interact directly with European citizens, it will interact with them indirectly, via messages conveyed to public health authorities, policy makers, decision takers, specialized press. In their turn, COMPARE stakeholders will produce communication directed towards the citizens. This communication has at least two main goals. On the one hand, it aims to modify behaviors and to convince people to adopt preventive measures (including human and animal vaccinations, hygiene, early quarantine, etc.) in order to prevent the spread of pathogens, and, when the outbreak cannot be prevented anymore, to persuade people to comply with public health measures. On the other hand, it aims to encourage active participation in the global infectious disease surveillance system, and to mitigate risks of misinformation and idiosyncratic reactions against public health surveillance and preventive measures.

COMPARE should then – so to speak – “empower” its stakeholders by providing them not only with the necessary information but also with the necessary tools for an effective public health communication. It is then fully justified to speak of the “COMPARE communication ecosystem” (see above figure), in which information generated in the centre should be communicated to the periphery, avoiding major misrepresentations, misinterpretations, and falsifications.

The problem that we are facing is difficult. Could messages generated by a network of highly scientifically sophisticated labs, which are using next generation sequencing (NGS) methodologies, be simply transferred to risk assessors, then to policy makers and decision takers, then to risk communicators, and finally to health care professionals, journalists, and the public? Given the complex, and sophisticated, information transmitted, would we run the risk to generate a global “whisper game” effect, which will progressively deform the original messages?

Full article
24 JANUARY 2021