Superbugs and Ebola Communications Strategies at PRSA Health Academy in Cleveland

If you are in healthcare public relations, if it hasn’t happened already, your practice will eventually face the challenges of communicating with the public about an infectious disease, whether it’s Ebola, the flu or superbugs. That’s why a trip to Cleveland May 13-15 for PRSA Health Academy’s annual conference is well worth your investment.

Let’s start with the topic of antibiotic resistance, which is a form of drug resistance where bacteria are able to survive after exposure to one or more antibiotics. This can happen when patients do not take their antibiotics as directed or when doctors over-prescribe or just because bacteria evolve that are resistant to multiple antibiotics. The end result are new strains of multidrug resistant or, more commonly called superbugs. Best known types of drug-resistant bacteria include MRSA, VRSA, ESBL, VRE and MRAB.

In a session that tackles the superbug issue directly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is opening its communications playbook to improve our strategies for dealing with this emerging health crisis. The presenters are Nicole Coffin, Director for Communication Science, Centers for Diseae Control and Prevention and Dr. Glen Nowak. Dr. Nowak is a professor in Advertising and Public Relations at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and also directs the College’s Center for Health and Risk Communication. From 1998 to 2012 he was at CDC, serving 6 years as Chief of Media Relations and 6 years as Director of Communication for its National Immunization Program. In 2009, he received PR News Non-profit award for “crisis management” for “outstanding media relations response to H1N1 influenza.”

Every year, more than 2 million people in the U.S. alone get infections that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die as a result. Addressing this challenge requires moving to a bigger stage – one with more visibility and support for greater investments in the fight against antibiotic resistance. A strategic, coordinated and sustained communication and education effort was needed to reach a new stage. This PRSA Health Academy presentation will highlight the techniques and tactics used and assessed by CDC’s Healthcare Communication Team to foster support for new and greater action on antibiotic resistance.

Meanwhile, the most vexing medical issue of the past year, Ebola, is the subject of another noteworthy presentation by CDC.  David Daigle, communications director and Abbigail Tumpey, associate director, communications science at CDC will address the crisis and risk communications challenges during the Ebola crisis response in West Africa and the United States. You’ll hear insights on the public affairs and media relations experiences, as well as the efforts and challenges involved in educating and assisting U.S. health care workers and facilities. You’ll also learn the risk and health communications approaches used, along with some of the lessons learned during a rapidly evolving crisis.

These two presentations alone are worth the price of admission—but keep in mind Health Academy is also sponsoring a pre-conference at Cleveland Clinic, one of the top medical facilities in the world. Register by April 14 and save $100: