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Communicating the Risks of Bioterrorism and Other Emergencies in a Diverse Society: A Case Study of Special Populations in North Dakota

Biosecurity and Bioterrorism: Biodefense Strategy, Practice, and Science

September 3, 2005

In the event that terrorists use air, water, or food to deliver destructive agents to civilian populations, some groups and populations may be disproportionately at risk and have unique communications needs. Bioterrorism represents an even greater national public health threat if the nation's preparedness and readiness plans do not address the needs and perspectives of, for example, low-income residents, racially and ethnically diverse communities, and other "special populations." The objective of this study was to develop communications strategies to reach special populations in North Dakota before, during, and after a bioterrorism attack or other crisis. To achieve the study objectives, the investigators used telephone interviews and telephone focus groups with organizations that represented special populations. Areas of inquiry included attitudes and concerns about crises, sources of information used and those identified as most credible, methods to reach people during a crisis event, and awareness of and attitudes about the agencies and organizations that affect risk communications.