Dr. Janet Yang Provides Expertise on Risk Communication and COVID-19

Published March 29, 2020

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Janet Yang sits down with Channel 4 News, Buffalo NPR, and UBNow to discuss the importance of spreading clear and simple risk communication.


UB Associate Professor in Communication, Dr. Janet Yang, recently sat down with Channel 4 News and discussed the current range of risk communication surrounding COVID-19, both federally and locally. During her interview, Dr. Yang encourages the public to do their research and to “verify information sources.” She adds that people are receiving the majority of information about COVID-19 from elected officials and politicians, and reminds the public, “when it comes to a public health disease outbreak… scientists are also very important to listen to.” The interview later transitions to the topic of social media and its contributions to risk communication related to COVID-19.

Social media has undoubtedly become a breeding ground for questionable news, as anyone who wants to can post or repost whatever they choose. In her conversation with Channel 4 news, Dr. Yang provides a possible solution to this phenomenon. She mentions, “it is important for agencies to engage more actively with social media, when you see something online that is not truthful, they should send out information to debunk that rumor immediately.” Dr. Yang’s solution may work well with online communication. However, when asked about what a non-expert should do when tasked with the responsibility of disseminating information about COVID-19 outside of the internet, she suggests something everyone can do. Dr. Yang’s message to those in charge of spreading health information within work environments, or to their loved ones, is to “keep it simple.” Yang encourages sharing messages that ensure the health and safety of everyone like hand-washing and social distancing.

Dr. Yang has been consistent in her quest to promote the need for better COVID-19 communication. In a recent interview with UBNow, she states, “to keep the public informed but not alarmed, it is important for health experts and governmental agencies to communicate simple, clear facts to ordinary citizens.” In another interview with Buffalo’s NPR Station, Dr. Yang acknowledges the “fine line” between keeping the public informed and not alarmed, but maintains her stance that the best way to deal with the current state of uncertainty is through clear and simple communication from figures of authority. As a final statement on COVID-19 and risk communication, Dr. Yang reminds the public, “this is something that all of us should be aware of and take precautionary measures without panic.”

Read more about Channel 4 News interview here.

Read more about Buffalo NPR interview here.

Read more about UBNow story here.