Health Risk Communication Research

In March 2001, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced funding for a grant program to develop, implement, and evaluate strategies for improving health risk communication related to military deployments among military personnel, veterans, their family members, and their health care providers.

Two health risk communication research projects were funded on September 1, 2001. One grant was awarded to Rutgers University for the project “Improving Health Risk Communications to Prevent Unexplained Illnesses Related to Military Deployments.” This project focuses on assessing knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs about chemical, biological, and radiological agents. The intent is to develop and evaluates risk communication materials regarding these agents. The project involves a series of in-depth semistructured interviews and self-administered quantitative surveys. Participants include veterans of the 1991 Gulf War and a random selection of U.S. residents. Using their findings, the study investigators will work with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to develop emergency and crisis communications about new and emerging diseases or bioterrorism and communications about health and disease. The in-depth interviews with veterans have been completed. Investigators are conducting a national survey that focuses on the general public’s perceptions, opinions, and knowledge of health and disease. The study continues through August 2005.


Brewer, N. T., Hallman, W. K., Kipen, H. M, & Fiedler, N. Why do people report better health by phone than by mail? Medical Care 2004;42(9):875–83.

Boyd, K C., Hallman, W. K., Wartenberg D., Fiedler, N, Brewer, N. T., & Kipen, H. Reported exposures, stressors, and life events among Gulf War registry veterans. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine 2003;45(12):1247–56.

The second grant was awarded to the Henry H. Jackson Foundation for the project “Health-e VOICE: Optimized Implementation of a Stepped Clinical Risk Communications Guideline.” This project focuses on the development and evaluation of an interactive, web-based distance learning tool for improving DoD health care providers’ capacity to communicate with veterans about deployment-related health concerns. Focus groups were used to determine health care providers’ knowledge and attitudes about caring for military personnel and veterans, especially those with deployment-related health concerns and medically unexplained symptoms. The information collected from the focus groups was used to script six electronic patient-care vignettes that interactively teach health care providers appropriate clinical risk communication techniques. The effectiveness of this interactive teaching tool will be tested in a randomized controlled trial, which should be completed by October 2005.

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Page last reviewed: October 29, 2010 (archived document)