New Research: Analysis of Risk Communication on Ebola Crisis Finds Public Could Benefit from Less Assurance, More Empowerment

Sun May 17, 2015

For Information Contact:
Glenn O'Neal, 703-907-8640
Erin Connors, 703-907-8562

TORONTO – Analysis of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) communications effort about the Ebola outbreak in 2014 found significant room for improvement, including more focus on offering people things to do and less over-reassurance. During the recent Ebola crisis, significant mental health distress was found in individuals who had the disease, were quarantined, worked with people with Ebola or feared acquiring the disease.

Researchers Daniel Witter, M.D., Ph.D., Kyle Dalton and Joseph Thornton, M.D., evaluated CDC’s communication strategy based on guidelines on infectious disease risk communication developed as recommendations to the World Health Organization (WHO). Using these recommendations as a guide, researchers analyzed transcripts from three televised news conferences in which CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden discussed the risk associated with the Ebola outbreak in Central Africa. The authors conclude that "empowerment, rather than assurance, should be the goal of risk communication."

Dr. Witter earned his medical degree at the University of Florida College of Medicine. After finishing medical school, he remained at the University of Florida where he is currently completing his second year as a Psychiatry resident.

Dr. Witter will present his research at the 2015 APA New Research Press Briefing on May 17 from noon to 1:00 PM EDT at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Follow @APAPsychiatric and #APAAM15 to find out the latest Annual Meeting news.

The American Psychiatric Association is a national medical specialty society whose physician members specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and research of mental illnesses, including substance use disorders. Visit the APA at


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