CFA visits Ottawa for International Meeting on Risk Assessment and Communication

CFA and other attendees of International Meeting on Risk Assessment and Communication

CDC’s Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics (CFA) uses data, models, and analytics to assess public health threats. We use both quantitative and qualitative techniques in our assessments, which support public health response and strengthen national security. When quantitative data are limited, we use qualitative risk assessment methods to assess the likely public health implications of an outbreak. While risk assessment is well-established in other fields, there are unique challenges to risk assessment for public health, especially for infectious diseases. CFA is applying risk assessment methods that are flexible so that assessments can be updated to incorporate new information and analyses, including modeling and forecasting results.

To improve how we assess infectious disease risks, we teamed up with the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Center for Integrated Risk Assessment (PHAC) to host a meeting in November 2023. During the meeting, we discussed our ongoing public health risk assessment and risk communication activities. Representatives from CFA, PHAC, the CDC South America Regional Office, the World Health Organization, UK Health Security Agency, European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, and the Pan American Health Organization also attended.

At the meeting, each of the organizations shared what they are doing to assess risk and the challenges they face, such as how to most effectively connect risk assessment to public health risk mitigation and risk communication. Participants also shared ideas about how to integrate quantitative analyses and expert opinion into qualitative risk assessments. Many agreed that different risk assessment approaches and communications may be needed for different situations.

After a series of presentations and discussions, participants agreed to continue working together, learning from one another and identifying solutions to common challenges in risk assessment and communication. Together we decided to establish an informal collaborative network to strengthen ties across organizations and foster a learning community.

This is a very welcome and exciting opportunity to collaborate with colleagues across the globe on this important work. As my team works on providing tools to lower- and middle-income countries to conduct risk assessments, I am eager to bring in best practices and insights from this network of practitioners.

Dr. Emilie Peron, World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Program, Division of Health Emergency Intelligence and Surveillance Systems

We know that we are better when we work as a team, and hope that this collaboration will allow us to advance our risk assessment capabilities, strengthening our preparedness for the next public health emergency. We also hope the network will facilitate information-sharing and collaboration during the next public health emergency. Adrienne Keen, Director of the Inform Division at CFA, noted, “I believe we’ll be safer and make better public health decisions if we can more quickly assess new threats, taking into account insights from others who are tackling the same problems.”