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Press Release TELL ME 2014-12-02

on Thu, 12/04/2014 - 13:30
The TELL ME project was created in response to European Commission Call (DG Research and Innovation ‐ HEALTH), for developing an evidence‐based behavioural and communication package to respond to major epidemic outbreaks.

Go to the TELL ME Brochure

From Ebola outbreak to vaccine mistrust: why communication may help to save lives

The Ebola outbreak that is currently raging in West Africa and the Italian alarm over the flu vaccine safety are two of the most recent examples of how fear, concern, suspect, distrust and stigmatization may become powerful allies an epidemic can count on, when spreading in human communities. In fact, these elements can affect the dangerousness of a disease by allowing the diffusion of wrong or missing information and thus decreasing the efficacy of public health activity. This is the very reason why an effective risk communication may help to save lives.

Health communication during epidemics will be the main focus of the final conference of the TELL ME project, which will take place in Venice, on December 4th and 5th.
TELL ME is a project funded by the European Union, whose members have been working for three years in order to create conditions to exploit the huge potential that the information society can offer in terms of participatory communication during epidemics and in epidemic preparedness. Such an approach would allow governments and health institutions to maximize opportunities and minimize risks during an infectious diseases outbreak. Members of the TELL ME projects come from public health, social sciences, behavioural sciences, political sciences, law, ethics, communication and media, and during the conference they will present useful communication tools and products with a potential for use by professionals in the field: a practical guide for outbreak communication, an agent-based simulation model for public health officials and decision makers and an e-learning course for primary healthcare workers. They will also show the new participative model for risk communication they developed, a model that would help public health authorities to secure optimal preparedness for infectious disease threats.

Amongst the many speakers, there will be some experts external to the TELL ME project but whose contribution is highly relevant for the topic to be discussed: Karl Ekdahl from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Francesco Zamboni from the World Health Organization, Toby Merlin from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Brian McCloskey from the Public Health England, Nigel Dowdall from the UK Civil Aviation Authority, Cecilia Strada from Emergency and many others.

The target audience for this conference are health policy makers, communications officials and representatives from public health authorities that operate at an international, European, national and local level, healthcare providers, civil servants, the pharmaceutical industry, NGOs and the media. Through their intervention, the members of the European project also aim to create a community where knowledge from similar initiatives can be shared and unique viewpoints can be expressed, with the aim of refining our defences against the continuing threats posed by infectious diseases at regional and international level.