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Public Health Emergencies: Risk Communication and Decision Science


4th term
Environmental Health and Engineering
3 credits
Academic Year:
2020 - 2021
Instruction Method:
Class Times:
  • Tu Th,  1:30 - 2:50pm
Auditors Allowed:
Yes, with instructor consent
Undergrads Allowed:
Grading Restriction:
Letter Grade or Pass/Fail
Course Instructors:
Tara Sell

Would you respond well in a public health crisis?

Decision making and communication in a crisis can make or break a public health response.

Improving the quality of decisions and risk communication can save lives

Explores the science of risk communication and decision making. Discusses risk perception, communication guidance, and news media portrayal of risks— all critical components of behavioral and psychological factors affecting health-related behaviors. Reviews existing guidance on risk decision making. Presents previous and current public health emergencies as practice-based examples of risk communication and decision making. Examines public health emergency scenarios to prepare students for communication and decision making in their future work.

Learning Objectives:

Upon successfully completing this course, students will be able to:

  1. Identify the human factors that influence decision making under uncertainty and time pressure
  2. Explain techniques for improved decision making in a crisis
  3. Analyze decision making in past public health emergencies
  4. Apply decision science to improve public health decision making
  5. Articulate the importance of communicating effectively about risks from and responses to public health threats
  6. Apply components of effective risk communication to provide messages to policy makers and the public about health risks and protective actions
  7. Identify common pitfalls in risk communication and how to avoid them
  8. Critique existing risk communication controversies
Methods of Assessment:

This course is evaluated as follows:

  • 90% Assignments
  • 5% Discussion Board
  • 5% LiveTalks

Instructor Consent:

No consent required