I don’t know why, but whenever me and my team gets cited once, twice, three times a day by another peer-reviewed publication, I get turned on.
Most of that stuff we wrote 20 years ago, but it still has relevance.
So here’s one that cited us and I wish they hadn’t.
Whoever wrote this abstract needs some communication training.
This report assesses peer‐reviewed and grey literature (WTF is grey literature?) on risk communication concepts and practices, as requested by the European Commission to support the implementation of a ‘General Plan for Risk Communication’, i.e. an integrated framework for EU food safety risk assessors and risk managers at Union and national level, as required by the revised EU General Food Law Regulation.
We conducted a scoping review of social research studies and official reports in relation to risk communication in the following areas: understanding and awareness of risk analysis roles and tasks, reducing misunderstanding of the different meaning of the terms ‘hazard’ and ‘risk’, tackling misinformation and disinformation, enhancing confidence in EU food safety, taking account of risk perceptions, key factors in trade‐offs about risks, audience segmentation and tools, channels and mechanisms for coordinated risk communications. We structured our findings as follows: i) definitions of key concepts, ii) audience analysis and information requirements, iii) risk profiling, models and mechanisms, iv) contributions to communication strategies.
We make several recommendations for consideration by the Commission, both in terms of actions to support the design and implementation of the general plan, and research needs that we consider crucial to further inform appropriate risk communication in the EU. EFSA carried out a targeted consultation of experts and a public consultation open to all interested parties including the general public, in preparing and finalising this report.
Technical assistance in the field of risk communication, April 29 2021
European Food Safety Authority
Laura Maxim, Mario Mazzocchi, Stephan Van den Broucke, Fabiana Zollo, Tobin Robinson, Claire Rogers, Domagoj Vrbos, Giorgia Zamariola, and Anthony Smith
European Cleaning reports that a US hospital study has revealed that while healthcare hand hygiene compliance soared early on in the pandemic, it fell back to pre-pandemic levels after just four months.
Woman washing her hands at the kitchen sink. There are vegetables out of focus in the background.
The University of Chicago Medical Centre used an automated hand hygiene monitoring system to track how often staff washed their hands or used sanitiser when entering and exiting a patient’s room between September 2019 and August 2020. Compliance trends were then analysed by researchers at the hospital.
In September 2019, baseline monthly hand hygiene compliance levelled out at 54.5 per cent across all units, peaking at 75.5 per cent. On March 29, 2020 – when anxiety about the pandemic was running high – hand hygiene compliance hit a daily peak of 92.8 per cent across all hospital units. And it hit 100 per cent across those units that were temporarily given over for the exclusive use of COVID-19 patients.
However just four months later in August 2020, monthly compliance levels had dropped back to 56 per cent, researchers found.
The results of the study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, considered various factors that may have contributed to the March 2020 jump in compliance including staff members’ increased awareness of the importance of hand washing during the pandemic.
Jesus Jimenez of the New York Times writes a salmonella outbreak linked to contact with wild songbirds and bird feeders has sickened 19 people across eight states, eight of whom have been hospitalized, federal health authorities said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was investigating salmonella infections in California, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington State in people ranging in age from 2 months to 89 years old.
Public health officials across the country interviewed 13 of the people who were infected and asked them about animals they had come in contact with a week before they became ill, the C.D.C. said. Nine said they owned a bird feeder, and two reported they had come into contact with a sick or dead bird. Ten people said they had pets that had access to or contact with wild birds, the agency said.
To prevent further cases, the C.D.C. recommends cleaning bird feeders and bird baths once a week or when they are dirty. People should avoid feeding wild birds with their bare hands, and should wash their hands with soap and water after touching a bird feeder or bath, or after handling a bird.
My friend Tim Caufield, professor of law at the University of Alberta, the Research Director of its Health Law Institute, and current Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy, writes in an op-ed for the Globe and Mail that COVID public health policies have been with us for a year. So has uncertainty. We’ve all lived through twelve months of “huh”? And this has added to the public’s frustration, fatigue, and stress.
In the early weeks and months of the pandemic, there was uncertainty about masks and asymptomatic spread. There was uncertainty about if and when we’d get a vaccine. There was uncertainty about what type of public health policies worked best and were most needed. We have all had to tolerate a lot of ambiguity. And as the vaccines roll out, we are being asked to tolerate even more. (When will I get a vaccine? Which one will I get? And what about the variants?)
For public health communications to be effective, the public must have confidence in the message. And, unfortunately, for some, that confidence isn’t there. A recent study from the University of Calgary explored pandemic communication and found, not surprisingly, that “participants felt that public health messaging to date has been conflicting and at times unclear.”
This perception is understandable. An atmosphere of seemingly relentless uncertainty and confusion has been created by a combination of scientific realities, media practices, some less-than-ideal communication from policy makers, and the spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories.
The science surrounding COVID was – and, for some topics, continues to be – highly uncertain. While a growing body of evidence has emerged around the most contested issues (such as the value of masks and physical distancing strategies), early in the pandemic there wasn’t much that was unequivocal. The science evolved and, as you would hope with any evidence-informed approach, the resulting science advice and recommendations evolved too. But for some, shifting policies, even if appropriate, just added to a sense, rightly or not, of chaos.
In addition, the media has been reporting on the research as it unfolds, including referencing studies that have not yet been peer reviewed. Often the preliminary or uncertain nature of the relevant research is not reported in the media, thus creating a false impression about the actual state of the science – as exemplified by the “hydroxychloroquine works!” debacle (PS, it doesn’t). Perhaps worse, relatively fringe perspectives – such as those pushing the value of “natural herd immunity” – have been given a relatively high profile in both the conventional press and on social media. This can create a false balance (fringe idea vs. broad scientific consensus) that we know can be detrimental to both public discourse and health behaviours.
Despite the frustration that uncertainty can create, the public has a demonstrated preference for honesty about the limits of our knowledge. A recent study from Germany found that “a majority of respondents indicated a preference for open communication of scientific uncertainty in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.” This finding agrees with other research that has found that when uncertainty is relevant to their lives, the public wants to know about it.
People may want to hear about uncertainty, but will communicating it do more harm than good? Will it just add to an already confused information environment? The data on this point are actually fairly mixed, but recent research exploring the impact of communicating scientific uncertainty found that it either increased perceptions of trust in science or had almost no impact. This is good news. As the authors of one of the studies notes, “this should allow academics and science communicators to be more transparent about the limits of human knowledge.” Other studies have found that being honest about uncertainties in media reports about research can actually boost the perceived credibility of journalists.
And over the long term, honesty about the uncertainties of the evidence used to inform policy seems essential to the maintenance of public trust. For example, being overly dogmatic about a policy or predictive model could hurt the credibility of decision makers if new evidence requires a revision of a past positions.
When possible, public health authorities (or anyone seeking to communicate science) should start with well-defined and well-supported takeaway messages (e.g., please get vaccinated with whatever vaccine is available to and recommended for you!).But then be honest about what is not known (e.g., while vaccines are our best defense, we aren’t sure how long immunity will last).
Depending on the medium used (a social media post, for example, may not be the best venue for a long discourse on methodological challenges), it may also be wise to explain the limits of the research approach (e.g., observational studies can’t prove causation). If there are areas of scientific disagreement, be honest about that too – but be specific about what is being disputed. Often there is broad agreement about the big stuff (e.g., vaccines work!), but academic debate about some details. Often those trying to sow doubt – like those in the anti-vaccine community – will try to weaponize and over-emphasize small academic disagreements. Don’t give them that room.
When communicating about uncertainty it is also important to highlight what is being done to reduce it, such as forthcoming research or new data analysis. This provides a road map forward and invites the public to follow the science as it unfolds. It is also a way to stress that uncertainty is a natural part of the scientific process.
For the public, try not to let the uncertainty kerfuffle distract you from the big picture. Remember that there are many clear knowns. Vaccines, physical distancing, hand washing, masks, and being responsible when symptoms emerge will get us through this pandemic.
Finally, it is also important to take a break from all the uncertainty noise. Studies have shown that the constant consumption of conflicting COVID news can (no surprise here) add to our stress. Put down the phone, back away from the screen, and take ten from “huh?”
Carmine Galloof wrote in the Harvard Business Review last year that ideas are the currency of the twenty-first century. The ability to persuade, to change hearts and minds, is perhaps the single greatest skill that will give you a competitive edge in the knowledge economy — an age where ideas matter more than ever.
More than 2,000 years ago Aristotle outlined a formula on how to master the art of persuasion in his work Rhetoric. A summary of Galloof’s article appears below.
1) Ethos or “Character”
Aristotle believed that if a speaker’s actions didn’t back their words, they would lose credibility, and ultimately, weaken their argument.
2) Logos or “Reason”
Once ethos is established, it’s time to make a logical appeal to reason. Use data, evidence, and facts to form a rational argument.
3) Pathos or “Emotion”
According to Aristotle, persuasion cannot occur in the absence of emotion. People are moved to action by how a speaker makes them feel. Aristotle believed the best way to transfer emotion from one person to another is through the rhetorical device of storytelling. More than 2,000 years later, neuroscientists have found his thesis accurate. Studies have found that narratives trigger a rush of neurochemicals in the brain, notably oxytocin, the “moral molecule” that connects people on a deeper, emotional level.
Aristotle believed that metaphor gives language its verbal beauty. “To be a master of metaphor is the greatest thing by far,” he wrote. When you use a metaphor or analogy to compare a new idea to something that is familiar to your audience, it clarifies your idea by turning the abstract into something concrete.
Those who master the metaphor have the ability to turn words into images that help others gain a clearer understanding of their ideas — but more importantly, remember and share them. It is a powerful tool to have.
Here again, Aristotle was ahead of his time. “Aristotle had discovered that there are fairly universal limits to the amount of information which any human can absorb and retain,” writes Kings College professor Edith Hall in Aristotle’s Way. “When it comes to persuasion, less is always more.”
Brevity is a crucial element in making a persuasive speech. An argument, Aristotle said, should be expressed “as compactly and in as few words as possible.” He also observed that the opening of a person’s speech is the most important since “attention slackens everywhere else rather than at the beginning.” The lesson here is: start with your strongest point.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office writes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 6 people in the U.S. get food poisoning each year—leading to 128,000 hospital stays and 3,000 deaths. CDC has seen an increase in foodborne illness outbreaks that span multiple states in recent years.
CDC has developed tools to identify possible multistate outbreaks, investigate their cause, and communicate about them to the public. But it needs to balance the need to communicate quickly against the need to provide accurate and specific information.
Our recommendations include that CDC publicize its decision-making process for communicating about multistate outbreaks.
Every year, millions of Americans get sick from foodborne illness and it is estimated half of all reported instances occur at restaurants. To protect the public, regulators are encouraged to conduct restaurant inspections and disclose reports to consumers. However, inspection reporting format is inconsistent and typically contains information unclear to most consumers who often misinterpret the inspection results. Additionally, consumers are increasingly searching for this information in a digital context. Limited research explores inspection reports as communication tools.
Using affect-as-information and ELM as theoretical frameworks, this experiment investigated how discrete emotions (e.g., disgust) conveyed through pictorial cues (i.e., emojis) influenced consumers’ processing of inspection reports. Participants, recruited from Amazon’s MTurk, were randomly assigned to one of six experimental conditions in a 3 (emoji: smiling vs. disgusted vs. none) x 2 (violation level: low vs. high) between-subjects design. Then, participants completed a questionnaire regarding perceptions and cognitive processing of the message.
Results revealed that, compared to text, disgusted face emoji increased risk perceptions and avoidance behavior. In terms of emotion, smiling face emoji motivated participants to feel more emotions related to sanitation. In turn, positive feelings decreased elaboration likelihood. As predicted by ELM, involvement also predicted elaboration, such that participants who were highly involved with inspection reports elaborated more than those less involved. Involvement also moderated the relationship between emoji presented and elaboration. Practical implications are also discussed.
Disgusting face, disease-ridden place?: Emoji influence on the interpretation of restaurant inspection reports
Researchers took a survey of 205 pregnant women, both those in a hospital and online, between December 2017 and January 2018. The results, according to BabyGaga, can be read in two ways. The good news is that the average woman scored 95% correct. The troubling news? Only 25% scored a perfect score. With things like deadly foods for fetuses, you need 100% in order to be completely protected from the dangers.
What danger foods weren’t readily known by expectant mothers? Baked goods with added cream or custard, hummus, certain salads, and soft/semi-soft Cheese all were among the most missed.
Hummus typically purchased in packages run the risk of listeria. This bacteria poses a danger to an unborn baby as it can cause the immune system to weaken. This, in turn, leads to listeriosis. Pregnant women are told to prepare any hummus at home and make sure to eat it while it is still fresh.
Refrigerated, ready-to-eat foods are generally a no-no. Two recent recalls highlight the risk.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has issued a recall for a popular brand of lunch meat.
The CFIA said people should not consume the recalled product and instead throw it out or return it to the store they purchased it from.
The recalled Pastrami was sold at stores in Alberta, Nova Scotia, Ontario and possibly across the country.
Food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes may not look or smell spoiled but can still make you and your family sick.
The CFIA said there have been no illnesses reported.
This recall was triggered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) test results. The CFIA is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products. If other high-risk products are recalled, the CFIA will notify the public through updated Food Recall Warnings.
The CFIA is verifying that the industry is removing the recalled product from the marketplace.