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Student & Alumni Achievements

Student & Alumni Achievements

Johns Hopkins: Alumna Pens Opinion Column for Scientific American: Communicating Public Health Risks During Epidemics

Dr. Amitha Kalaichandran, an alumna of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, has published an opinion piece in Scientific American, “Uncertainty in a Time of Coronavirus.” The piece delineates the importance of public health messaging during an epidemic, “where the risks of sending the ‘wrong’ message can have devasting consequences—unnecessary anxiety on the one hand (which can take an immense psychological toll) and thousands of unnecessary deaths on the other.” Dr. Kalaichandran earned a Master of Health Science from the Bloomberg School in 2008.

Dr. Kalaichandran calls messaging around coronavirus thus far “far from ideal.” Among the takeaways:

“… public health stakeholders should communicate what is and isn’t known, coordinate messages to help ensure consistency, and perhaps most importantly, acknowledge that their views (and thus their messaging) may change quickly; thankfully, more recently media organizations are choosing to express this uncertainty and a recent op-ed in the New York Times underscores many of these principles, as ‘people react more rationally and show greater resilience to a full-blown crisis if they are prepared intellectually and emotionally for it.’ The authors also urge that we consider using the term “pandemic” (though the World Health Organization (WHO) is not yet comfortable with this).”

The article mentions Dr. Kathryn Bertram of the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs, which is based at the Bloomberg School.

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