Article 12 of the ECDC Founding Regulation gives details on the Centre’s role in communications:
- The Centre shall communicate on its own initiative in the fields within its mission, after having given prior information to the Member States and to the Commission. It shall ensure that the public and any interested parties are rapidly given objective, reliable and easily accessible information with regard to the results of its work. In order to achieve these objectives, the Centre shall make available information for the general public, including through a dedicated website (...).
- The Centre shall act in close collaboration with the Member States and the Commission to promote the necessary coherence in the risk communication process on health threats.
- The Centre shall cooperate as appropriate with the competent bodies in the Member States and other interested parties with regard to public information campaigns.
ECDC activities in health communication
Health communication is integral to effective public health response to the continuing threat posed by communicable diseases in the EU and EEA countries. Furthermore, the surfacing of new infectious organisms, microbial resistance to therapeutic drugs, new environment-related phenomena and new emerging diseases have expanded the role of health communication as a core competency of public health practice.
Public health practitioners, programme managers and policy makers need to be aware of the strengths, weaknesses and costs of health communication interventions aimed at the prevention and control of communicable diseases so that impacts can be enhanced and opportunities maximised for strengthening evidence-based action.
Why focus on health communication programs
ECDC surveillance of infectious diseases clearly shows that traditional epidemiological and microbiological interventions are not enough to address key threats in contemporary infectious disease control in Europe, such as poor vaccine uptake, emergence and spread of antibiotic resistant microbes in health care settings and in the community, and transmission of HIV and STI within certain high-risk groups (ECDC, 2011). The traditional interventions therefore need to be complemented with other preventive actions.
Research shows that properly designed communication activities can have a positive impact on health-related attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, and thus can influence individual and community decisions to reduce risks to health. The use of specific health communication strategies and techniques can tailor messages to maximise public attention, raise awareness of health risks, contribute to improved health literacy, promote solutions and increase the likelihood of adoption of health behaviors and practices.
ECDC activities in the area of health communication stem from the mandate given to ECDC in Article 12 of its Founding Regulations. They have three directions:
- Efficiently communicate the scientific and technical output of ECDC to professional audiences The main scientific output from ECDC is disseminated through technical and scientific reports, which are authored by internal and external experts.
- Communicate key public health messages and information to the media and the European publicHealth problems and concerns differ from country to country. ECDC therefore works closely with national authorities to ensure its public health messages have maximum impact.
- Support the development of Member States’ health communication capacities ECDC supports Member States’ communications activities by delivering training in health communication skills, providing adaptable tools and guidance, and facilitating the share of best practices on health communication.
Health communication objectives
- To make evidence-based information on health communication easily accessible within the EU and EEA countries;
- To support countries in sharing knowledge and experiences between public health professionals undertaking health communication activities;
- To promote health communication skills among public health professionals, who tackle infectious diseases in the EU and EEA countries;
- To support Member States’ efforts to integrate behaviour change and risk communication strategies in their communicable disease prevention programmes and public health campaigns;To provide guidelines and practical tools to support health communication in a consistent way, e.g. developing guidance on health communication strategies and plans.
ECDC aims to support Member States in effective communication for the prevention and control of communicable diseases. For this purpose, ECDC provides outputs to meet the needs of professionals and organisations working in the field of public health, including government authorities, researchers, political think tanks and institutes, health care professionals, students and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).