Plenary 2: Communication and public health

Thursday 11 November 2021, 10:10 – 11:10 AM CET.
Organisers: European Public Health Association (EUPHA), EUPHA Public health monitoring and reporting section.



Communication has always been a key part of public health. This plenary highlights current communication challenges and opportunities for public health. At the same time as we have been experiencing a pandemic, the world is also experiencing an ‘infodemic’: an overabundance of information that occurs during an epidemic. This information may be accurate or not and spreads via digital and physical information systems. It can lead to mistrust in health authorities and undermines the public health response. An ‘infodemic’ can intensify or lengthen outbreaks when people are unsure about what they need to do to protect their health and the health of people around them. It also impacts citizens in every country, and addressing them is a new and centrally important challenge in responding to disease outbreaks. The public health workforce needs to adapt to this changing environment and its growing digitization – an expansion of social media and internet use.

In the second part of this plenary, we’ll dive into the theory of behaviour change, as well as present innovative interventions to change behaviour of populations. Decades of research in the behavioural sciences have shown that cognitive biases and social context can influence behaviours as well as efforts to change them. Human behaviour played a crucial role in shaping the pandemic and the actions taken by individuals, communities, and governments. This plenary discusses why behavioural insights and sciences should be considered as part of a holistic response to the COVID-19 pandemic or any other health challenge. The goal is to help leaders, policymakers, and the general public better understand how to manage threats, harmonize individual and collective interests, utilize successful leadership, improve risk communication, and navigate diverse social and cultural contexts.