Een zendwagen van NOS op het terrein van het RIVM

RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment researcher Marion de Vries will be defending her dissertation on Friday 24 September, focusing on crisis communication, the role of the media during a crisis, and public perception of a crisis.

During crises, people experience a need for clear and reliable information about risks to their health and measures to mitigate those risks. In the course of her PhD research, Marion de Vries examined three health crises in which RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment was involved. Three crises took centre stage: COVID-19, meningococcal disease type W, and the use of rubber granulate in synthetic turf fields. She looked at public perception in the Netherlands of the risks and the mitigating measures that were adopted, and how people responded. 

Various reactions

Public perception of a crisis can shift rapidly, De Vries says. That sudden shift happens when there is a change in the health risk posed by the issue, or in the information provided about the crisis, for example in media reporting. For that reason, it is important to constantly adapt risk communication to how people perceive a crisis and what information they need.

The role played by the media in relation to risk communication by authorities may vary in crisis situations. For example, media channels could pick up on the information provided by official institutions and disseminate it to a broader audience, or adopt a critical stance instead. That may be influenced by the type of risk (arising from natural causes or from human actions), and by whether there are parties in the societal debate who are clearly supporting or opposing different sides.

Would you like to know more about the research done by Marion de Vries?

In a video interview, Marion de Vries answers four questions about risk communication.

Watch the video (in Dutch) on this page.