Katherine Waters, DVM, MPH, DACVPM 
Program Director, Executive Program in Public Health Practice, School of Public Health 
Food Systems Program Leader, University of MN Extension
Buddy Ferguson 
Risk Communication Consultant 
St. Paul, MN 
Lillian McDonald, MA 
Executive Director
Emergency, Community, Health, and Outreach (ECHO)                     

In brief, this course explores how people perceive risk and how to communicate effectively about risk, with an emphasis on preparing you to respond when a crisis occurs and you are on the firing line. The term "risk communication" refers to a body of knowledge and a set of practical skills that can be used by government, public or private agency public health, public safety and other professionals in characterizing and managing issues, disseminating information and communicating effectively in crisis or emergency situations.  Principles of risk communication are derived from social science research, psychological research and theory, communication theory and the accumulated experience of professionals who have addressed real-world public health, public safety or emergency management communication issues on a day-to-day basis.  This course covers key concepts of risk communication theory as well as their practical application to the collection and sharing of information in support of individual and community decision-making about public health issues.  The course will also examine new media and their role in public health communication.  Challenges in communicating with underserved and non-English speaking populations will be discussed.  

Experiential learning in the form of interactive exercises and on-camera practice are emphasized during the course.

This non-credit course meets with the academic course PubH 7214-101 as part of the 2024 Public Health Institute.
Enrollment for this course will open on February 22, 2024.

For more information: z.umn.edu/PHI.


At the end of this course, participants will be able to:

  • Describe the 10 best practices of successful risk communication.
  • Outline the crisis communication life cycle and highlight the role of crisis and emergency risk communications.
  • Explain normal human behavioral response to fear and uncertainty and its impact on communication strategies in order to develop the most effective risk communication for a variety of public health situations.
  • Differentiate risk communication approaches and methods for different types of situations and audiences.
  • Prepare key messages and outline a communications strategy for various public health scenarios.
  • Describe the strategies and characteristics that determine the credibility and effectiveness of a public health spokesperson/messenger.
  • Describe the factors that influence the perceived trustworthiness of a spokesperson
  • Recognize the value in understanding culture-based differences that can impact the delivery and reception of information


The core competencies for public health professionals are a consensus set of skills identified by the Council on Linkages (CoL) between academia and public health practice as being desirable for the delivery of the essential public health services. The CoL competencies identified for this course are:

Domain 1: Model Leadership

  • 1.1 Solve problems under emergency conditions
  • 1.2 Manage behavior associated with emotional responses
  • 1.3 Facilitate collaboration with internal and external partners
  • 1.4 Maintain situational awareness
  • 1.5 Demonstrate respect for all persons and cultures

Domain 2:  Communicate and Manage Information

  • 2.1 Manage information related to an emergency
  • 2.2 Use principles of crisis and risk communication

Domain 3: Plan for and Improve Practice

  • 3.2 Contribute expertise to emergency plans
  • 3.3 Participate in improving the organization’s capacities

Council on Linkages Core Competencies that apply to this course include:

Communication Skills

  • 3.3  Solicits input from individuals and organization
  • 3.4  Uses a variety of approaches to disseminate public health information
  • 3.6  Applies communication and group dynamic strategies in interactions with individuals and groups

Cultural Competency Skills

  • 4.1  Incorporates strategies for interacting with persons from diverse backgrounds

Community Dimensions of Practice Skills

  • 5.3  Establishes linkages with key stakeholders

Financial Planning and Management Skills

  • 7.1  Interprets interrelationships of local, state and federal public health and health care systems for public health program management

Registration & Cancellation

The registration fee for this course is $595. You will receive an email letter outlining program logistics two weeks prior to the start of the course.

Requests for refunds will be honored in full if a written cancellation request is received prior to the course start date. An administration fee of $50 will be charged to all refund requests received after the first day of class. The University of Minnesota School of Public Health (SPH) reserves the right to cancel any course. In the event of a course cancellation, registrants will receive a full refund of the program registration fee. SPH is not responsible for refund of travel or other costs incurred by registrants.

SPH will provide a certificate of attendance verifying 1.5 CEUs (15 contact hours) offered for this program. This course is eligible for 15 CPH recertification credits.

All courses are approved for CPH Recertification Credits by the National Board of Public Health Examiners.

Contact & Questions

Email phi@umn.edu

Thank you for your interest in this course. Unfortunately, the course you have selected is currently not open for enrollment. Please complete a Course Inquiry so that we may promptly notify you when enrollment opens.
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