The Challenges and Rewards of Engaging a Skeptical Public

Published in: Israel Journal of Health Policy Research, v. 2, no. 12, Mar. 2013, p. 1-4

Posted on RAND.org on March 01, 2013

by Lori Uscher-Pines, Arthur L. Kellermann

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Findings published in this issue suggest that a substantial subset of the Israeli public generally trusts government, yet is determined to make their own judgments about the need for precautionary action in certain types of public health emergencies. This reflective approach, which may be common in other countries as well, poses a substantial challenge to achieving desired levels of compliance, particularly when the threat requires swift and concerted action. The aim of this commentary is to discuss both the challenges and the rewards of engaging a public that wants to weigh evidence prior to taking action in an emergency, rather than defer to expert judgment. While engaging a skeptical public can be difficult, a reflective public acknowledges that preparedness is a shared responsibility of government and individuals and may be receptive to messages about the need for household and community self-sufficiency in a disaster. This is a commentary on the article "Analysis of Public Responses to Preparedness Policies" by Velan and colleagues.

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