Review of Communication Research

HEALTH COMMUNICATION                                                                                                

Title & Authors

Communicating Uncertainty During Public Health Emergency Events: A Systematic Review

 

Pradeep Sopory1, Ashleigh M. Day1, Julie M. Novak1, Stine Eckert1, Lillian Wilkins1, Donyale R. Padgett1, Jane P. Noyes2, Fatima A. Barakji1, Juan Liu1, Beth N. Fowler1, Javier B. Guzman-Barcenas1, Anna Nagayko3, Jacob J. Nickell1, Damecia Donahue1, Kimberly Daniels4, Tomas Allen5, Nyka Alexander5, Marsha L. Vanderford5, Gaya M. Gamhewage5

 

1 Wayne State University, Detroit, USA; 2 Bangor University, Bangor, UK; 3 Independent Researcher; 4 George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, USA; 5 World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland

 

Highlights

• Coverage of published studies, grey literature, media reports from all United Nations languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish).
• Synthesis of findings across four methods: Quantitative-comparison groups; Quantitative-descriptive survey; Qualitative; and Mixed-method and case study.
• Uncertainty is related to multiple facets, and is both uncertainty information conveyed in a message as well as uncertainty experienced.
• Public often experiences uncertainty due to lack of information; for its reduction, it actively seeks information from all available sources.
• Public should receive explicit, consistent, clearly understood uncertainty information speedily from authorities.
• Uncertainty information leads uniformly to desirable results for the public but for some communities it may sometimes cause negative outcomes.
• At-risk communities receive messages containing uncertainty information in lives that are already filled with many uncertainties due to poverty.
• Stakeholders such as experts, policy makers, healthcare workers, and media professionals experience uncertainty and process uncertainty information similar to the public.

 

 

Abstract

To answer the question, What are the best ways to communicate uncertainties to public audiences, at-risk communities, and stakeholders during public health emergency events? we conducted a systematic review of published studies, grey literature, and media reports in English and other United Nations (UN) languages: Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian, and Spanish. Almost 11,500 titles and abstracts were scanned of which 46 data-based primary studies were selected, which were classified into four methodological streams: Quantitative-comparison groups; Quantitative-descriptive survey; Qualitative; and Mixed-method and case-study. Study characteristics (study method, country, emergency type, emergency phase, at-risk population) and study findings (in narrative form) were extracted from individual studies. The findings were synthesized within methodological streams and evaluated for certainty and confidence. These within-method findings were next synthesized across methodological streams to develop an overarching synthesis of findings. The findings showed that country coverage focused on high and middle-income countries in Asia, Europe, North America, and Oceania, and the event most covered was infectious disease followed by flood and earthquake. The findings also showed that uncertainty during public health emergency events is a multi-faceted concept with multiple components (e.g., event occurrence, personal and family safety, recovery efforts). There is universal agreement, with some exceptions, that communication to the public should include explicit information about event uncertainties, and this information must be consistent and presented in an easy to understand format. Additionally, uncertainty related to events requires a distinction between uncertainty information and uncertainty experience. At-risk populations experience event uncertainty in the context of many other uncertainties they are already experiencing in their lives due to poverty. Experts, policymakers, healthcare workers, and other stakeholders experience event uncertainty and misunderstand some uncertainty information (e.g., event probabilities) similar to the public. Media professionals provide event coverage under conditions of contradictory and inconsistent event information that can heighten uncertainty experience for all.

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Communicating Uncertainty During Public Health Emergency Events: A Systematic Review

 

Pradeep Sopory1, Ashleigh M. Day1, Julie M. Novak1, Stine Eckert1, Lillian Wilkins1, Donyale R. Padgett1, Jane P. Noyes2, Fatima A. Barakji1, Juan Liu1, Beth N. Fowler1, Javier B. Guzman-Barcenas1, Anna Nagayko3, Jacob J. Nickell1, Damecia Donahue1, Kimberly Daniels4, Tomas Allen5, Nyka Alexander5, Marsha L. Vanderford5, Gaya M. Gamhewage5

 

1 Wayne State University, Detroit, USA; 2 Bangor University, Bangor, UK; 3 Independent Researcher; 4 George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, USA; 5 World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland

 

Keywords: Uncertainty; Risk communication; Disaster communication; Public health emergency events;

 

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Content

1.0 INTRODUCTION

1.1 Background

1.2 Objective

2.0 METHOD

2.1 Process Design for Evidence Synthesis

2.2 Determining Study Methodology of Data-based Primary Studies

2.3 English and Other United Nations Languages

2.4 Information Sources for Literature Search

2.5 Literature Search Strategy, Search Terms, and Search Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria

2.6 Article/ Report Selection

2.7 Quality Appraisal of Selected Individual Studies

2.8 Extraction of Data from Selected Individual Studies

2.9 Quality Assurance of Extraction of Data from Individual Studies

2.10 Synthesis of Findings

3.0 RESULTS

3.1 Study Selection

3.2 Study Characteristics

3.3 Quality Appraisal of Individual Studies

3.4 Synthesis of Findings Within Methodological Stream and Evaluation of Certainty and Confidence

3.5 Synthesis of Findings Across Methodological Streams

4.0 DISCUSSION

4.1 Findings from Present Review Vis-a-Vis Findings from Existing Reviews

4.2 Suggestions for Practice

4.3 Research Gaps in the Reviewed Literature

4.4 Implications for Theory

4.5 Limitations of the Present Review

4.6 Conclusion

5.0 REFERENCES

COPYRIGHTS AND REPOSITORIES

  

Keywords

Uncertainty; Risk communication; Disaster communication; Public health emergency events.

 

About the Authors

Authors biographical information (Authors are listed in article order):

Personal website: Pradeep Sopory

Personal website: Ashleigh M. Day

Personal website: Julie M. Novak

Personal website: Stine Eckert

Personal website: Lillian Wilkins

Personal website: Donyale R. Padgett

Personal website: Jane P. Noyes

Personal website: Fatima A. Barakji

Personal website: Juan Liu

Personal website: Beth N. Fowler

Personal website: Javier B. Guzman-Barcenas

Personal website: Anna Nagayko

Personal website: Jacob J. Nickell

Personal website: Damecia Donahue

Personal website: Kimberly Daniels

Personal website: Tomas Allen

Personal website: Nyka Alexander

Personal website: Marsha Vanderford

Personal website: Gaya M. Gamhewage

 

Funding

This project was funded by the World Health Organization, Department of Communications (Contract PO 201393190 WHO Registration 2015/586494-0 and Contract PO 201428650 WHO Registration 2016/601521-0).

 

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