The Public Sphere in Emerging Infectious Disease Communication: Recipient or Active and Vocal Partner?

Anat Gesser-Edelsburg*, Yaffa Shir-Raz, Nathan Walter, Emilio Mordini, Dimitris Dimitriou, James J. James, Manfred S. Green

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Objective: Recent years have seen advances in theories and models of risk and crisis communication, with a focus on emerging epidemic infection. Nevertheless, information flow remains unilateral in many countries and does not take into account the public's polyvocality and the fact that its opinions and knowledge often "compete" with those of health authorities. This article addresses the challenges organizations face in communicating with the public sphere. Methods: Our theoretical approach is conceptualized through a framework that focuses on the public sphere and that builds upon existing guidelines and studies in the context of health and pandemics. We examine how health organizations cope with the public's transformation from recipients to an active and vocal entity, ie, how and to what extent health organizations address the public's anxiety and concerns arising in the social media during outbreaks. Results: Although international organizations have aspired to relate to the public as a partner, this article identifies notable gaps. Conclusions: Organizations must involve the public throughout the crisis and conduct dialogues free of prejudices, paternalism, and preconceptions. Thereby, they can impart precise and updated information reflecting uncertainty and considering cultural differences to build trust and facilitate cooperation with the public sphere. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)447-458
Number of pages12
JournalDisaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 23 2015


  • communication framework
  • emerging infectious disease
  • outbreak communication
  • public sphere
  • risk and crisis communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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