Masters Thesis

An Exploration of Risk Communications and Perceptions on COVID-19 Pandemic in the United States: A Systematic Literature Review

A novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) was first identified on December 31, 2019 in Wuhan, China and global mobility has contributed to worldwide transmission of the virus. Studies have shown that risks of serious illnesses and death from COVID-19 are associated with demographic variables, information sources, and knowledge of the disease. In order to reduce morbidity and mortality from COVID-19, efforts have been targeted to the transmission and spread of the virus based on a number of public health preventative and control measures. Therefore, a clear understanding of people’s perceptions of COVID-19 risks are urgently needed to encourage pragmatic health behaviors. Health behavioral change can be accomplished through effective risk communication. This study was conducted as a systematic review of published literature on health risk perceptions and communications associated with COVID-19 pandemic. A total of 11 studies were included in the review based on three major themes including, demographic factors, information sources, and knowledge of the disease. The results showed that demographic factors such as age and geographic locations influenced risk perceptions of COVID-19.Additionally, the availability and frequency of accessing various types of media and information sources influenced individual perceptions of risk. Finally, the studies demonstrated existing gaps in knowledge of COVID-19, it’s spread, and prevention among various segments of the U.S. population. These findings revealed that in order to reduce the current morbidity and mortality of COVID-19, there is an urgent need to improve risk communication efforts at all levels of government. To improve the ongoing response to COVID-19, it is important to acknowledge the key role public health professionals have in leading the effort on risk perceptions and communication. This is with a view to providing consistent and reliable sources of information that will improve knowledge and bolster public trust in all affected communities. Improvements in risk communication as an important public health function can identify vulnerable populations, provide reliable and consistent information sources that would influence people’s attitudes, knowledge and beliefs, and prevent unexpected public health consequences of COVID-19 pandemic.

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