Dec 2018

Many Lessons To Learn from Spanish Flu and Subsequent Pandemics

With the centenary of the horrible “Spanish Flu” that killed millions worldwide in 1918-1919, the media has been awash with coverage of that event.  And this week’s “On the Media” radio show from National Public Radio took a very well researched and in-depth look infections over the past 100 years and how public health officials and governmental agencies have recorded responses raging from dismal failures to incredible successes.

For anyone who cares about public health and our response to pandemics (and potential pandemics) this is an interesting story, and we encourage you to take a listen.

A key point is that a Pew Research Center study from last year placed the level of trust Americans have in public health officials is only 55 percent.  That might seem low, until you realize that Americans trust government, media and politicians far less.

What do we do to improve on that 55 per cent trust factor?  The CDC’s Risk + Emergency Risk Communications  tome from 2012 offers the following basic advice:

Be First, Be Right, Be Credible

Which is easier said than done, but nevertheless excellent advice.  If you haven’t reviewed your crisis and emergency plan lately, we think doing that would be a good New Year’s resolution for the coming holiday.   We used to have a little booklet on our desk called “When You Need a Friend, It’s Too Late to Make One” which offered excellent advice for all of us to follow.  For public health, we should be certain to reach out to media in our area, and let them know who we are, what we do and how we do it.  Credibility must be earned over time.

Start now.

And have a happy holiday!

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