Considerations to Help Cities Assess & Communicate Risk During a Pandemic

Dec 14, 2022 | News

We are soon to face another winter with COVID-19. This year, it’s accompanied with surging numbers of influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases, which will make accessing and communicating risk to the public more complex. With this in mind, the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene requested of the NYC Pandemic Response Institute (PRI) to convene a diverse group of stakeholders to articulate recommendations for future response to pandemics and to discuss the following questions: What do various segments of society need to clearly understand regarding risk of COVID-19, and how do leaders provide that information? 

At the convening, we heard from a diversity of New Yorkers who have personally and professionally navigated this pandemic, put forth ideas that experts have supported. Taking into account the benefits and costs of various pandemic mitigation measures as well as the need to update and refine risk-benefit analyses over time and in response to population- and sector-specific factors, a series of recommendations and guiding principles emerged from the convening that point to the need for the following:

  • Clarify the rationale behind messaging (e.g. protecting hospital capacity, lowering death rates, flattening curves of cases)
  • Quantify potential physical / social / and economic harms of the pandemic and mitigation measures
  • Develop plans for future health threats transparently and in collaboration with communities and various societal sectors
  • Incorporate behavioral science, human-centered design, and social marketing principles to crafting and communicating of messages
  • Center resource decisions on a mandate for health equity to ensure access and equitable distribution of resources and services
  • Focus on building trust through transparent and continuous community engagement, feedback, and improvement

We have an opportunity to create a new approach to addressing public health risk and members of various sectors of society in attendance at the Convening expressed that they are ready to assist in moving forward with these recommendations. While no convening can be perfectly inclusive of all possible voices, we believe that these considerations will be informative in charting a way forward.

To learn more, download the full copy of our report: Considerations for COVID-19 Risk Assessment and Communications.