Health Education and Risk Communication Strategies
Given the apparently widespread indoor use of methyl parathion and the limited understanding of associated public health implications, is the current strategy of health professional education, community health education, and the national health alert the most appropriate and effective methodology?
Good communication is as important as good science for protecting public health. ATSDR and EPA should be commended for including an emphasis on communication in this expert panel workshop. The federal, state, and local agencies, despite tremendous time and resource constraints, have also stressed communicating with affected populations.
Clearly, there is a commitment to public health education and a recognition that communication is essential to coping with the methyl parathion situation. A suggestion or recommendation in this document does not imply that agencies have failed to take such action. In fact, given agency expertise and commitment, we would be surprised if many of our suggestions have not been acted upon in some way. Finally, our mission is not to critique current agency programs, nor do we have the information to do so. Thus, any examples of communication problems, unless otherwise stated, are derived from research or experience with issues other than MP.
Although agencies need guidance on step-by-step processes, this document does not attempt to serve as a manual. We cannot emphasize strongly enough that we see the following guidance as a beginning of agency consideration of communication issues, not a communication plan.
The efforts of the public health practice work group would not have been possible without the input of affected people from three states, and the personnel from ATSDR, EPA, and state agencies who provided information, reality checks, and invaluable ideas.
Finally, in this section of the expert panel report we have not examined the larger policy decisions about the most appropriate public interventions. We have not looked at whether agencies should be conducting mitigation or pursuing other strategies, nor have we examined where responsibility should lie. We assume such strategies have already been examined not only from technical perspectives but also from social ones.