Registration is now open for the Communicating Infectious Diseases Conference, sponsored by the Journalism and Media Studies Centre. The conference, which marks the tenth anniversary of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) pandemic, will take place at the University of Hong Kong from June 26 to 28.

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The conference will bring together global health professionals, medical doctors, public health officials, and communications experts to discuss how the communication of emergency health risks to the pubic has changed since SARS.

A key focus of the conference will be to look at risk communication at the community level during disease outbreaks and see whether communication can be used as a tool to prevent, or delay, the emergence of new diseases.

Registration is free and open to the public. Register online at jmsc.hku.hk/beyondsars. More information can be found on the conference website.

“On the one hand, the conference aims to look back over the past ten years and see how well the communications lessons that were learned during SARS are being applied,” said Thomas Abraham, the director of the Public Health Communication programme at the JMSC and organizer of the conference. “On the other, we will look broadly at what we can do better: where is there room for improvement and what research is being done, or should be done, to develop better guidelines?”

There will be panels on emerging and recurring diseases, the role of social media in risk communication, communication network capacities in Asia, methods for joining local and global communications, and how to communicate health risks to isolated and insular communities, among other topics.

Guest speakers will include John Rainford, Director of Emergency and Risk Communications for the Canadian Government; Dr. Paul Gully, former Senior Medical Advisor to the Canadian Deputy Minister of Health and former Canadian representative on the Executive Board of the World Health Organization; Malik Peiris, Chair Professor of Microbiology at Hong Kong University; and Melinda Frost, Risk Communication and Emergency Response Director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Center for Global Health in Beijing.

The conference will also launch a new online training course, Behavioral Change Communication During Outbreak Response. The course is designed to teach students how to communicate important information to the public during the outbreak of a disease like SARS, when there is no treatment or cure for the disease.

[Click on the video below for an introduction to the course.]

The conference and online course have been developed with funding from the University of Hong Kong’s University Development Fund.