Americans are conflicted about how well public health officials have communicated with the public about COVID-19. 

Just over half said public health officials have done an excellent or good job, while nearly as many said they’ve done a fair or poor job, according to a nationally representative Pew Research Center survey from September. More than anything, respondents cited a lack of preparedness among public health officials in the face of an outbreak. 

Now, nearly three years into the pandemic, as monkeypox and polio make headlines around the country, a cadre of health professionals in Tarrant County will gather to discuss lessons learned from COVID-19 about communicating in a crisis. 

The panel event, organized by the Fort Worth Report as part of its Candid Conversations series, will take place Oct. 19 at Texas Wesleyan University. 

If you go: 

When: 7:30-9 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19 

Where: Nick and Lou Martin University Center, Texas Wesleyan University. 3165 East Rosedale St., Fort Worth, Texas, 76105

What: Free community event with free parking. Complimentary breakfast will be served at 7:30 a.m., and the program will begin promptly at 8 a.m.

Get your free ticket here.

Vinny Taneja, the director of Tarrant County Public Health, will serve as a panelist alongside Diana Cervantes, epidemiologist and assistant professor at The University of North Texas Health Science Center; Mary Robinson, chief nursing officer at Texas Health Resources; and Becky Moreno, a community health worker who does case management at Baylor Scott & White Quality Alliance. 

The Report’s health reporter, Alexis Allison, will moderate.

The event will include a discussion about how misinformation, partisanship, medical mistrust and scientific uncertainty influence public health messaging, and what people who work in public health and medicine can do to inform their communities moving forward. 

No “instant fix” exists when it comes to effective public health messaging, Cervantes said. In her roughly two decades of experience in public health, she has led response efforts amid outbreaks of infectious diseases like Ebola and mumps. 

Not only do myriad unknowns complicate public health communication as disease spreads, messaging that works for one group may not work for another group, she said. She’s looking forward to comparing notes with her fellow panelists.

“We’re in this kind of lull,” she said. “We’ve got the vaccines, we’ve got good treatments. Now, how do we make sure we’re maximizing those and taking what we did learn to prepare for future events?”

Alexis Allison is the health reporter at the Fort Worth Report. Her position is supported by a grant from Texas Health Resources. Contact her at alexis.allison@fortworthreport.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Alexis AllisonHealth Reporter

Alexis Allison covers health for the Fort Worth Report. When she can, she'll slip in an illustration or two. Allison is a former high school English teacher and hopes her journalism is likewise educational....