ASTHO Publishes Comprehensive COVID-19 Risk Communication Guide for Health officials

The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) has developed a field guide entitled, “COVID-19: Simple Answers to Top Questions,” with two doctors from the Center for Risk Communication and a working group of State Health Officials using the science-based, risk communication message mapping development process. Message maps are a tool used to organize complex information into a series of easily understandable messages. The guide uses this process to provide answers to many types of questions about COVID-19 in eight sections that cover the following topics:

  1. Basic questions about COVID-19 symptoms, health impacts for different population groups, and comparisons to other types of viruses.
  2. Travel restriction policies and effectiveness.
  3. Self-protection to prevent infection such as the use and supply of facemasks.
  4. Virus transmission from person to person proximity and contaminated surfaces.
  5. Outbreak such as the source, contagion, and spread of the virus.
  6. Response including vaccine development, medical treatment, and hospital capacity.
  7. Control measures such as prevention, quarantine, and preparation including the role of public health authorities, hospitals and healthcare providers, communities, businesses, and individuals.
  8. Media expectations and reactions.

The guide also includes appendices A – G with links to resources and more information. The nine principles for message mapping are provided in appendix B and start with developing the 3-5 short sentences to convey key messages in no more than nine seconds and 27 words, and then building out additional messages and information to support them. In addition to the extensive set of questions that make up the guide, these principles, along with the media tips and pitfalls in appendix C, and the period table for high concern communication in appendix D, provide a comprehensive set of tools for how to communicate with the public about COVID-19 and other types of crises. Visit ASTHO’s website to download and read the guide.