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Tufts OpenCourseware
Author: Joann Lindenmayer, DVM,MPH

1. Introduction

ESSENTIAL PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE #3: Inform, educate and empower people about health issues.

This service involves social marketing and targeted media public communication; providing accessible health information resources at community levels; active collaboration with personal health care providers to reinforce health promotion messages and programs; and joint health education programs with schools, churches and worksites.


Zoonoses: Diseases shared by humans and animals (influenza, the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies), animals as sentinels of human disease

Foreign Animal Diseases: Emerging Foreign Animal Diseases (FADS, e.g., transmissible spongiform encephalopathies)

Environmental health: Food resources (food chain – analyze the chain and pinpoint the locations of potential production problems, distribution and utilization – major systems for the distribution of food resources)

Community Health: Organization of Community Health activities (role of the veterinary practitioner in safeguarding community health, scenarios of community health problems which should include veterinarians), community public health education (veterinarian’s roles and responsibilities in educating individual clients and the public concerning animal related public health issues and concerns, examples of situations requiring good risk communication skills, media/methods available for educating clients/public concerning community public health problems, health risk communication – define health risk communication and relevance to veterinary medicine, techniques/tools for communicating disease risk to clients and the general public, student exercise in which students must design, present and critique a risk communication message to a local newspaper)

Epidemiology and Biostatistics: measures of disease frequency, assessment of risk

PRIMARY EXAMPLE: Avian influenza

2. Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this class students should be able to:

  • Define epidemiologic risk

  • Describe factors that affect the public’s perceptions of risk

  • List principles of risk communication about veterinary public health issues at the community level

  • Discuss the utility of developing single overriding health communications objectives (SOHCOs)

  • Develop SOHCOs in preparation for an interview with a local reporter

  • Anticipate issues of concern and community level responses to a potential outbreak of avian influenza among poultry or wild birds

  • Know where to go for information about communicating risk about avian influenza to animal owners

3. Required Reading

WHO. Outbreak Communication. Best Practices for Communicating with Public during and Outbreak. Report of the WHO Expert Consultation on Outbreak Communications , held in Singapore, 21-23 September 2004. Pp 1-70.

DB Lewis. Avian Influenza to Human Influenza. Annual Rev Med 2006; 57:139-54.

McComas KA. Defining Moments in Risk Communication Research: 1996-2005. Journal of Health Communication 2006; 11:75-91.

Covello VT. Best Practices in Public Health Risk and Crisis Communication. Journal of Health Communication 2003; 8:5-8.

Avian Influenza in Companion Animals and Birds: Excerpts from ProMed-mail and Intel-Link Avian Digest.

4. Required Websites

A Primer on Health Risk Communication

CDC. Principles of Epidemiology in Public Health Practice: An Introduction to Applied Epidemiology and Biostatistics (Third edition). Chapter 6: Investigating an Outbreak , pages 3-1 to 3-26.