Roles and Limits of Communication

by on Tuesday, 29 December 2009 Comments

From the Global response to Avian Influenza through Pandemic A/H1N1, towards "One Health"

How much information should governments communicate to the public? How transparent should they be? Should they communicate all the information that they have, or rather leave aside information that could run the risk of being misinterpreted? And should honesty be preferred to transparency?
This question, which characterises all policy-making, is made even more complex here by the existence of what Dr. VANDERSMISSEN called the “scientific dilemma”. Science on the emergence, development and evolution of a pandemic is not fixed – this was clearly exemplified by the emergence of a pandemic of porcine origin in the South American continent, when a pandemic of avian origin was expected to develop in the Southeast Asian region. The pandemic A/H1N1 also turned out to be, until now, far less lethal than originally predicted.
As summarised by Dr VANDERSMISSEN, we have entered an era of “infectious uncertainty”. How much of this uncertainty should be communicated to the public? Would trust/serenity/obedience of an audience, depending on the primary objective of the communication strategy, be best established by a self-confident government who might need to change its message following the evolutions of science? Or by an executive acknowledging the gaps in its information and advising to “keep listening” to possible evolutions in its recommendations?

Dr Vandersmissen's PPT

[inset side="left" title="Alain Vandersmissen"] has been the Coordinator of the External Response of the European Commission to the Avian Influenza Crisis since January 2006. In this capacity, he has strongly contributed to the orientations and achievements of the global AI response. He is one of the promoters of the evolution of the AI response towards a “One Health” approach addressing all major risks at the interface between animals, humans and ecosystems. [/inset]

Alain Vandersmissen

Dr Alain Vandersmissen has been the Coordinator of the External Response of the European Commission to the Avian Influenza Crisis since January 2006. In this capacity, he has strongly contributed to the orientations and achievements of the global AI response. He is one of the promoters of the evolution of the AI response towards a “One Health” approach addressing all major risks at the interface between animals, humans and ecosystems. 
Currently his position encompasses “One Health”, Emerging Diseases and Health Security in Asia, which covers among others issues, the support to third countries on the A/H1N1 pandemic.
Since joining the European Commission in 1993, Dr Vandersmissen has been active in the fields of animal health and production, rural development and public health on a broad geographical basis. Between January 2002 and November 2006 he was appointed Counselor for Health, Education and Gender in the Delegation of the European Commission in Morocco.
Before joining the European Commission, he gained extensive experience in development cooperation in Latin America, Asia and Africa, including long-term postings in Ecuador and Costa Rica. He was also a university researcher and occasional lecturer.
Dr Alain Vandersmissen was educated at St Peter’s College(Brussels) and at the Universities of Namur and Liège. He holds a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine (honours) with postgraduate studies in Tropical Human Medicine in Antwerp.

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