Health officials, journalists agree on standards for releasing information

New guidance addresses public health emergencies

Public health officials and journalists now have guidance on what information should be made public when someone dies or falls ill during a public health emergency, thanks to a unique collaborative effort being made public today.

A new document – developed by leaders in public health and health-care journalism – provides a framework for releasing such information as the age and location of private individuals who have been affected by an epidemic or other public-health event.

These nonbinding recommendations, “Guidance on the release of information concerning deaths, epidemics or emerging diseases,” are meant to help public health officials balance the need to keep the public informed with requirements to maintain individuals’ privacy.

The guidance emphasizes the importance of openness, stating that information should be withheld only when there is a clearly justified reason.

The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), and the Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ) teamed up to develop the guidance after the H1N1 “swine flu” pandemic of 2009.

Read the complete press release.

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