Risk communication

Online course on risk communication - open to all, anytime, from anywhere


Risk communication refers to the real-time exchange of information, advice and opinions between experts, officials and people who face a threat to their wellbeing, to enable informed decision-making and to adopt protective behaviors. It’s a core public health intervention in any disease outbreak and health emergency.

This online course, hosted by the new learning platform OpenWHO, features 5 modules of lectures and exercises to equip frontline responders and decision-makers with the information and tools they need to better manage disease outbreaks and health emergencies.

WHO responds to a new acute watery diarrhea oubtreak rumour in a remote zone in Somali region of Ethiopia

In disease outbreak situations, rumours are as valuable as actual surveillance data. In fact, disease response teams particularly surveillance officers, attach a lot of importance on rumours and investigates them until proven wrong or right.

In several instances, disease outbreak rumours have turned out to be correct thereby contributing to early containment, reduced morbidity and mortality associated with major outbreaks. This was the case recently in Somali Region where the Government of Ethiopia, WHO and other partners are battling an outbreak of Acute Watery Diarrhea (AWD).

Social science: Revolutionizing Emergency Response

WHO/E. Soteras Jalil

Although anthropologists have been involved in an ad hoc basis in supporting the response for disease outbreaks for decades, there is not yet a systematic and agreed upon way of integrating social science methods and interventions into all epidemics, pandemics, or health emergencies. WHO is leading the international community's attempt to agree on and systematize the integration of social science into all health emergency work.

Pandemic influenza risk communication: Delivering results in 2016


When the PIP project on risk communication began three years ago, risk communication was neither fully understood nor appreciated. At best, it was an afterthought in epidemic and pandemic response. But as a result of the advocacy, sensitization, training, national planning work, and deployment of surge capacity under the PIP risk communication project, things have changed.

In addition, operationalizing this new capacity in recent disease outbreaks such as MERS-CoV, Avian Influenza, Ebola, Zika, and yellow fever has convinced stakeholders that communicating risk in health emergencies is essential and can have a serious impact on the epidemic response.

Risk communication in the age of Zika


PAHO/WHO provided risk communication support to 20 countries in the Americas and the Caribbean during the acute phase of the response to the Zika virus epidemic and associated complications. The key interventions were carried out to strengthen the risk communication capacities in the public health sector, with focus on improving social mobilization and community engagement interventions through coordination, social research and active listening to the concerns of the at-risk and affected communities.

What is risk communication?

Risk communication is an integral part of any public health emergency response. In epidemics and pandemics, in humanitarian crises and natural disasters, risk communication allows people at risk to understand and adopt protective behaviours.

It allows authorities and experts to listen to and address people’s concerns and needs so the advice they provide is relevant, trusted and acceptable. In this video, little Ksir explains why risk communication is so important.


Get the WHO Zika app

Designed to provide essential information on Zika virus disease and its suspected complications for the health care workers as well as the general public. The app is currently available in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. Other language versions are in the pipeline. New content, including trainings, is coming soon.


For more information about risk communication, please email: riskcommunication@who.int.