In previous courses, you have discussed the application and interpretation of data, as well
as overarching components of public health like epidemiology and environmental health.
Describe some of the challenges faced by public health professionals with regard to
communicating scientific data and information to the public, policy makers, and news
media. What is the public health professional’s ethical responsibility when communicating
this information to the public?
Application and interpretation of data
Public health professionals encounter numerous challenges in relaying scientific data for
program development and health education campaigns. First, the data comprises of scientific
terms and analogies which makes it difficult to synthesize and interpret in common terms
without losing meaning (Scrimshaw, 2019). In most cases, public health data comprises of
unintelligible phrasing and explanations that fail to appeal to the information recipients. Second,
the abstraction challenge arising from the lack of experience to relate different aspects of data
and real-life situations makes it difficult to effectively impact on different groups. Third, public
health professionals experience the fear of uncertainty in the communication of scientific data to
the listeners given the diversity in the perception about science in generations and cultures
(Scrimshaw, 2019). Since scientific data is often proven during research in the field,
communicating public health scientific data is a challenge given the ingrained cultural
underpinnings relating to various concepts. Fourth, the communication may take place through
different media which in turn could change the meaning and context of the scientific data to the
APPLICATION AND INTERPRETATION OF DATA 2
recipients (Munafò et al., 2017). Scientific data often requires interpretation and decoding which
may exhibit different meaning for the public and policymakers.
Elsewhere, public health professionals have an ethical responsibility of verifying the
contents of the original data analysis while focusing on communicating the specific insights and
outcomes without any alterations (Bauchner et al., 2016). The scientific information should be a
focus on increasing knowledge without changing the original intentions of the scientific data
from research. Again, the professionals need to maintain integrity, confidentiality, and privacy of
participants, interviewees or respondents from whom they obtain the scientific data (Battisti et
al., 2015). Moreover, professionals need to disclose all the important findings and limitations
that could occur in the policy implementations and actionable programs in reducing
uncertainties. As such, public health professionals need to communicate accuracy, consistency
and balanced information for appropriate and informed decision making among the public and
APPLICATION AND INTERPRETATION OF DATA 3
Battisti, W. P., Wager, E., Baltzer, L., Bridges, D., Cairns, A., Carswell, C. I., … Yarker, Y. E.
(2015). Good Publication Practice for Communicating Company-Sponsored Medical
Research: GPP3. Annals of Internal Medicine, 163(6), 461.
Bauchner, H., Golub, R. M., & Fontanarosa, P. B. (2016). Data Sharing. JAMA, 315(12), 1238.
Munafò, M. R., Nosek, B. A., Bishop, D. V., Button, K. S., Chambers, C. D., Percie du Sert, N.,
… Ioannidis, J. P. (2017). A manifesto for reproducible science. Nature Human
Scrimshaw, S. C. (2019). Science, health, and cultural literacy in a rapidly changing
communications landscape. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(16),