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Communicating Deployment-Related Health Concerns

One of the more commonly addressed issues of patient-clinician interaction is the skill with which physicians communicate bad news to patients. Probably more common for most physicians, however, is the need to effectively convey reassuring information when the available medical evaluation suggests the absence of a catastrophic or rapidly progressive problem. This process is known as risk communication. It is the science of communicating information about risk under circumstances involving some combination of low trust, high concern, perceived crisis, or differential interpersonal power.

Nearly all clinicians regularly encounter patients under conditions of high concern, low trust, perceived crisis or differential interpersonal power. Clinicians can learn to improve their capacity for effective doctor-patient communication about risk, disease, and prognosis from the burgeoning literature on risk communication.

We've gathered some training material that we hope will help you learn how to effectively communicate deployment-related health concerns to patients.

  • A Primer on Health Risk Communication Principles and Practices. This Primer was written by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to provide a framework of principles and approaches for the communications of health risk information to diverse audiences. It is intended for public health professionals who must respond to public concerns about exposure to hazardous substances in the environment.

  • Risk Communication: A Lecture by Dr. John H. Marburger. Dr. Marburger, Science Advisor to the President, discusses his implementation of a comprehensive risk communication strategy used to rehabilitate the relationship of the Brookhaven National Laboratory to the neighboring community following its designation as a EPA Superfund Site.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

  • World Health Organization Field Guide, Effective Media Communication during Public Health Emergencies, Jul 05 Effective media communication is a key responsibility of public health professionals and information officers, especially during emergencies. This field guide summarizes the practical steps that can be taken to strengthen and enhance efforts made in this area. The guide can act as a rapid primer document as it highlights aspects of media communication activities that are crucial during a public health emergency. The target audiences for this field guide are WHO office and field personnel who are unfamiliar with media interactions or who wish to sharpen their skills in this area. It is also intended to help public health officials in other organizations and networks to deal with the media communication aspects of public health emergencies.

  • US Army Public Health Command (USAPHC)
    • Health Risk Comunication Consultation Provides comprehensive support to help organizations proactively identify, analyze, and plan for risk communication issues before they become impediments to their missions.)
    • Health Risk Communication Training (Offers a variety of health risk communication training courses designed to benefit everyone who discusses risk related information with the public and internal stakeholders. Courses are open to all military services, DoD, civilian personnel, contractors working on DoD projects, and other government agencies.)

  • Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center (NMCPHC) Risk Communication Program (Provides risk communication information, tools, training, assistance with development/review of project-specific risk communication materials and assistance for health professionals with queries from patients regarding exposures to chemicals, upon request.)
  • Center for Risk Communication (Brings proven techniques based on decades of university-level behavioral-science research and practice to meet public and organizational communication challenges posed by public perceptions and misperceptions of risks and benefits).
  • Society for Risk Analysis (A multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, scholarly, international society that provides an open forum for all those who are interested in risk analysis. Risk analysis is broadly defined to include risk assessment, risk characterization, risk communication, risk management, and policy relating to risk, in the context of risks of concern to individuals, to public and private sector organizations, and to society at a local, regional, national, or global level).
  • Center for Health and Risk Communication (The CHRC at George Mason University provides an important organizational framework for stimulating innovative health and risk communication research collaborations, health promotion intervention projects, and community interventions.)
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