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Center for Health Literacy: Our COVID-19 Activities and Presentations

Throughout the pandemic, the Center has contributed to conversations around COVID-19, health literacy, and risk communication. Check out what we've been up to! 

Public Health Symposium on Coronavirus

Feb 20 - University of Maryland School of Public Health

Dr. Cynthia Baur addresses concerns about the international coronavirus outbreak in her presentation, Effective Risk Communication As an Antidote to Fear, Uncertainty and Misinformation. Detailed summary of the entire event here. 

The Language of COVID-19: What’s Gone Wrong and How We Do Better

July 22 - IHA's 19th Annual Health Literacy Conference: Health Equities and Disparities in the Times of COVID-19

The coronavirus and COVID-19 disease have highlighted the central role of communication in public health emergencies and disasters. Information about the virus and disease—who's affected and why, protective behaviors, and consequences—have become so overwhelming and confusing that the World Health Organization declared an "infodemic of misinformation." Given that the basic structure of crisis and emergency response messaging is well-known in public health, how did COVID-19 communication go so wrong? How can health literacy and health communication practitioners contribute to a healthier information environment? This presentation will review the basic principles of clear and useful risk messages, examine examples of virus and COVID-19 information, and diagram improvements. Full conference archive

Participating in a Pandemic: Ensuring Safe Voting Public 

Oct 5 - University of Maryland School of Public Policy

Dr. Cynthia Baur participated in a panel hosted by the UMD School of Public Policy for the BIG10 network on safe voting. She talked in general about risk communication and specifically about the importance of clear directions for voters, poll workers, the media, and election officials. Read the panel summary here.

Health Literacy as a Corrective to a Misinformation Culture for Coronavirus Communications

Oct 8 - National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing and Media

Dr. Cynthia Baur discussed the many ways the COVID-19 "infodemic" and misinformation is undermining health literacy and creating unnecessary and dangerous confusion. She proposed that health literacy techniques can help bridge scientific findings and public acceptance of recommendations. Recording starts at the 10 minute mark.

Effective Risk Communication as an Antidote to COVID-19 Misinformation

Oct 9 - Great Lakes Health Literacy Conference 2020: Implications for Health Literacy during Times of Crisis

Dr. Cynthia Baur presented the Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication (CERC) framework and examples of how COVID-19 communication has violated many of those principles. She recommended that health communicators pay special attention to how COVID-19 risks are explained and showed how health literacy techniques can help.


Ethical Challenges for Public Health Practice When Working for Federal Agencies

Oct 27 - Horowitz Center for Health Literacy, University of Maryland School of Public Health


Public health agencies depend on well-trained, ethical professionals to carry out the complex and varied work of public health and to protect the public's health. The coronavirus has put public health practitioners in a spotlight and made the work more difficult and even dangerous, given some types of public reactions. Drs. Boris Lushniak, Dushanka Kleinman, Olivia Carter-Pokras and Cynthia Baur worked in several agencies of the federal US Department of Health and Human Services over several decades and now teach and research public health. They share their perspectives and suggestions of how future public health leaders can learn from the coronavirus outbreak and prepare themselves to be ethical public health leaders when the next outbreaks and disasters come. Additional event information here.

Deciding on Activities in the Time of COVID-19

Nov 13 - Published to Twitter and YouTube

Full playlist available here. Young adults' lives changed dramatically with COVID-19, especially as their typical social activities come with higher risk. The Horowitz Center for Health Literacy produced a series of short animations encouraging young adults, especially college students, to consider six specific factors before participating in activities like attending parties, dining outdoors, and hanging out at a friend's house. While the animations depict six activities, young adults can use the six factors to make decisions about any activity.

Talking With Patients and Communities About the COVID-19 Vaccines: Tips for Effective Communication

Jan 13 - Online webinar, recording posted to YouTube

This webinar is the second in a series to support effective communication around the approval and use of COVID-19 vaccines. It builds on concerns and questions from health care providers, administrators, public health practitioners and community health workers as they listen to patients and community members. The focus was on sharing effective strategies to enhance acceptance and uptake of the vaccine. Dr. Baur was a panelist at this event and shared examples of how to communicate about the COVID-19 vaccine.