Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Communication

Major Professor

Eric M. Eisenberg

Keywords

CDC, crisis communication, crisis response, H1N1, organizational decision-making, Sensemaking

Abstract

Abstract

This study focuses on the process of communication between government agencies and the public during crisis situations, and the development of an effective response strategy when a significant threat to public health and/or safety is believed to exist. My specific research interests are (1) the nature of the decision-making process that influences the communicative choices made during such events, and (2) how decision-makers make sense of an evolving, ambiguous, and unpredictable situation, in order to establish credibility with the public, determine the appropriate response strategy, and gain the public's trust in order to influence its behavior. This is a qualitative research study based on a series of in-depth interviews conducted with key staff members of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding the CDC's organizational response to the 2009-2010 H1N1 influenza pandemic. As global public health threats have the potential to significantly affect critical areas of the U.S. economy, national security policies are evolving to include strategic planning for issues related to global public health threats. However, despite having faced several serious public health threats during the past decade, governments worldwide and the global public health community continue to struggle with developing sufficient contingency plans and effective response strategies to meet the challenges of unexpected, highly unpredictable, and potentially devastating public health crises. My research addresses gaps identified in exploring the experience of crisis response participants in order to understand the process of response development. Additionally, I identify practices, processes, and recommendations that will be useful for future response teams confronted with equally challenging emerging threat and/or crisis scenarios.

Included in

Communication Commons

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