Applied Risk Communication for the 21st Century

  • Online
  • September 1720, 2024
  • $2,400

Dr. Viswanath has done a masterful job of putting together a top-notch risk communications program that offers practical, solid content that all types of risk communicators can use.
  • —R. Kelly Schwalbe
  • Partner, Sage Communications

Online Program Overview

Every day public health information is generated and made available to the public about diseases, public policies, new products, and corporate behavior. People are accessing this information in real time via traditional news, online media, social media and word of mouth. The public’s near-instant access to this unfiltered information presents significant new risks, particularly surrounding misinformation, drawing conclusions from wrong or impartial information, and disinformation, deliberately spreading falsehoods to further an agenda. Additional risks include reputation damage for companies who aren’t responding effectively to COVID-19, have negative impacts on health or the environment, or ineffective policy outcomes when health-related guidance is misunderstood or ignored.

This applied program will provide you with the knowledge and skills you need to design effective risk communication messages that improve communication outcomes, increase trust in your organization, reduce public anxiety, and help key stakeholders make better decisions.

You will learn from some of the most notable scientists working on risk communication, crisis communication, public health emergencies, decision making, big data, and public health leadership – and how to apply cutting edge ideas in communicating risk in a complex information environment.

Leading experts will draw on both previous pandemics,COVID-19 and climate change to illustrate concepts in the program and explore implications for practice. This includes:

  • Explicitly discussing misinformation and disinformation in the context of COVID-19
  • How to effectively communicate risk during the emergence of an infectious disease
  • Analyzing case studies about climate change information as well as COVID-19 information to vulnerable communities

Health and Environmental Risk Assessment

During times of crisis messaging can be lost in the noise, resulting in unintended consequences, rejected messages, or public fear and confusion. While during non-crisis periods, ineffective risk communication can result in low-impact, wasted resources, and other undesirable outcomes. When deployed effectively, risk communication is an invaluable tool for engendering trust, protecting organizational value, and helping the public make informed decisions.

For-profit companies can benefit from risk communication by ensuring that their customers, potential customers, and members of the public have the information they need to properly evaluate exposure assessment and the health impact of their products and operations, both on the public and their employees. By keeping the public informed about potential risks, corporations can reduce harm to consumers and protect themselves from repetitional damage stemming from human or environmental harm.

Public and non-governmental organizations can use risk communication to enhance public health analysis by educating their constituents about health, environmental, and societal risks. Effective communication also increases transparency and credibility, generating trust in the organization. As the public becomes more educated, they will be able to make more informed decisions about their health and well-being.

Regardless of organizational setting, risk communication is an effective tool your organization needs to inform stakeholders, help them make decisions, and protect their health.

Objectives & Highlights

When a risk to the public’s health arises, all involved organizations must provide information about the risk and guidance on the most appropriate response. Effective communication eases public anxiety and minimizes the possibility of poor outcomes associated with uninformed decision making.

This program addresses these issues by providing the latest science of risk communication, which increases message design and delivery effectiveness.

  • Develop a state-of-the-science understanding of the individual, psychological, interpersonal, and societal factors that influence the:
    • Impact of risk communications on the public’s risk perceptions, knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors, including compliance
    • Generation and communication of risk information during crisis and non-crisis periods
  • Apply this knowledge to designing effective risk communication messages drawing on the science of strategic communication and health communication
  • Become familiar with and practice methods for evaluating risk communication efforts


Major topics to be covered in the course will include:

  • The psychosocial and societal determinants of risk communication through the scientific and systematic overview of risk communication literature
  • Strategic communication of risk information including audience segmentation, designing messaging, and executing risk communications
  • Message construction formats for the communication of risk, including fear, narratives, and exemplars
  • Risk communication inequalities and disparities in health outcomes
  • Risk communication and decision making
  • Communication technologies and risk communication

Credits and Logistics

Continuing Education Credit

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health will grant 1.2 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for this program, equivalent to 12 contact hours of education. Participants can apply these contact hours toward other professional education accrediting organizations.

All credits subject to final agenda.

All participants will receive a Certificate of Participation upon completion of the program.


Current faculty, subject to change.

Kasisomayajula Viswanath, PhD

Program Director

September 1720, 2024
Lee Kum Kee Professor of Health Communication
Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Steering Committee, Health Communication Concentration

Enhancing Communications for Health Outcomes Laboratory

Faculty Director
Health Communication Core
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Rahul Gupta, MD, MPH, FACP, MBA


September 1720, 2024
Office of National Drug Control Policy
The White House

Jennifer S. Lerner, PhD


September 1720, 2024
Thorton F. Bradshaw Professor of Public Policy & Decision Science
Harvard Kennedy School

Harvard University

Rebekah H. Nagler


September 1720, 2024

Ivan Oransky, MD


September 1720, 2024
Distinguished Journalist in Residence
Arthur Carter Journalism Institute
New York University


September 17 – 20, 2024

All Times are Eastern Time (ET).

Tuesday, September 17, 2024
8:30–9:00 am Welcome & Classroom Technology Orientation
9:00–10:30 am Landscaping Risk Communication and Risk Communication in the 21st Century
10:30–10:45 am Break
10:45 am–12:15 pm Communication of Risk and News Media
Wednesday, September 18, 2024
9:00–10:30 am Emotions and Communication of Risk
10:30–10:45 am Break
10:45 am–12:15 pm Emotions and Communication of Risk Part II
Thursday, September 19, 2024
9:00–10:30 am Communication Technologies and Social Media: Lessons for Risk Communication
10:30–10:45 am Break
10:45 am–12:15 pm Leadership and Risk Communication during Public Health Emergencies: A Case Study from West Virginia
Friday, September 20, 2024
9:00–10:30 am Conflict and Controversy in Science: Implications for Risk Communication
10:30–10:45 am Break
10:45 am–12:15 pm Risk Communication Interventions from a Global Perspective

This agenda is subject to change.

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Who Should Participate

Professionals responsible for communicating about risk from private industry, the non-profit sector, and from governments around the world will benefit from attending. Participants with the following job functions are encouraged to attend:

  • Communications, public relations, and public affairs
  • Emergency preparedness and management
  • Government relations and regulatory affairs
  • Health policy and research
  • Occupational and environmental health
  • Public health, health promotion, and health education
  • Risk analysis and management