An Evaluation of Best Practices for Effective Public Outreach in Government-issued Methylmercury Fish Consumption Advisories
Over the last two decades, the United States government agencies responsible for public health have expressed a desire for more research on how to improve risk communication within state and federal fish advisory programs. This charge to risk communication researchers led to the development of a variety of best practices that offer potential solutions to many of the major barriers to effective public outreach. However, numerous studies suggest that government agencies have been resistant to adopting the targeted, interactive risk communication strategies proposed by researchers and that these best practices may have a limited impact in shaping government policy. To date, little is known about the degree to which best practices from the risk communication literature are present in government-issued fish consumption advisories. Further, some health and environmental agencies have expressed that they would be more amenable to adopting the recommendations of risk communication researchers if they were practical and accessible. In order to address these issues, a list of 125 best practices for effective advisory design were compiled from the risk communication literature and adapted into a practical coding scheme that was used to evaluate a sample of 221 government-issued methylmercury advisories. The results of this evaluation revealed a series of gaps between risk communication research and agency practice that are largely driven by conflicting objectives and the inability of many risk communication studies to adequately define effective risk communication. Evaluation is discussed as a means to strengthen ties between risk communication researchers and agency fish advisory programs. Moreover, connections are drawn between the findings of this study and other risk contexts, raising the possibility that the outsider status of risk communication researchers is less problematic than originally thought.
Risk Communication; Fish Consumption Advisories; Evaluation; Best Practices
dissertation or thesis