Using Word Clouds for Risk Perception in the Field of Public Health – the Case of Vector-Borne Diseases

Kerstin Maja Dressel, Steffen Schüle


Due to environmental and socio-economic changes, emerging zoonotic diseases will be an increasing challenge for public health in Europe. The risks and the consequences triggered by vector-borne diseases (VBD) for public health in Europe are just starting to emerge in public awareness. This is clearly shown by recent events such as Chikungunya in Italy and the spread of Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) in Europe. The EU-funded project ‘Biology and control of vector-borne infections – EDENext’ is dedicated to these diseases that are transmitted by vectors such as mosquitoes, ticks, etc. Within EDENext a holistic, transdisciplinary public health approach towards vector-borne diseases was developed. It defines the term “Public Health†in the scope of this project and suggests a re-conceptualisation of public health by adapting the risk governance framework developed by the International Risk Governance Council (IRGC) for this purpose. The IRGC approach is distinguished from more classical risk governance approaches, inter alia, by an explicit inclusion of a systematic concern assessment (of public concerns and perceptions) as the other part of risk appraisal that is scientific risk assessment. This innovative risk governance approach towards public health will be introduced and exemplified in Germany by the hantavirus disease that is transmitted via rodents. This paper shows first results of a risk perception study based on focus-group discussions with the general public in three endemic regions in Germany. With the method of word clouds first risk associations of focus groups participants are visualized, in order to capture various risk perception patterns of the hantavirus.


Risk governance, Public Health, risk perception, risk communication, vector-borne diseases, word clouds

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