Trust: The Shrouded Public Health Threat

International Crisis and Risk Communication Conference (ICRCC), March 7-9, 2022, Orlando, FL

Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic, characterized by unprecedented loss of life; political instability; and a global infodemic, has eroded public trust in all types of institutions (Edelman, 2021) except business. Public health efforts at managing the pandemic have consequently suffered as political polarization and rampant online misinformation has undermined the uptake of critical preventive measures such as masking and vaccinating (Nehum, et al., 2021). Public-facing health organizations are particularly vulnerable to trust erosion (Samson, 2021), as their relationships with publics are often matters of life and death. Their inability to address trust erosion could potentially result in fatalities and unintended societal consequences. Understanding the trust erosion process is integral to keeping the public safe and allowing these important organizations to continue fulfilling their public health and safety missions. This study proposes a new Trust Erosion Framework, grounded in extant trust scholarship and ongoing industry discussion, to describe and explain the trust erosion phenomenon and associated processes. Moreover, the study provides insight for health and risk communicators regarding the prevention, mitigation, conservation and restoration of trust among the public.

Xuerong Lu  Yan Jin 

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