Risk communication guidelines widely used in public health are based on the psychometric paradigm of risk, which focuses on risk perception at the level of individuals. However, infectious disease outbreaks and other public health emergencies are more than public health events and occur in a highly charged political, social and economic environment.

This study examines other sociological and cultural approaches from scholars such as Ulrich Beck and Mary Douglas for insights on how to communicate in such environments. It recommends developing supplemental tools for outbreak communication to deal with issues such as questions of blame and fairness in risk distribution and audiences who do not accept biomedical explanations of disease.