A Global Catastrophic Biological Risks (GCBR) is a biological development that could adversely affect the human species as a whole or radically change the course of human civilization. These high-impact, low-frequency events are hard to predict, presenting a challenge for effective risk communication.
A Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security research project focuses on this issue, defining what constitutes a GCBR, looking at historical global-scale threats and then examining what it takes to get people with knowledge, influence and control of resources to understand the potential ramifications of a GCBR.
The team looked at modern events such as the anthrax attacks in 2001, Zika, Ebola, and the Cold War threat of nuclear winter to see the good and bad risk communication and how policymakers and the public responded. They list a number of recommendations for future GCBR communications, including some that can be leveraged at the local level:
- Continually update risk assessments and risk reduction strategies.
- Enlist subject matter experts as communicators.
- Identify and utilize stakeholders from non-health arenas.
- Advocate both individual and social obligation when discussing the threat.