NIAA Antibiotic Symposium Goal: Getting Past Communication Obstacles
Colorado Springs––––The 9th Annual NIAA Antibiotic Symposium, to be held at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, will include discussions on how to get information out to producers and other animal agriculture professionals, and through them to consumers, on one of the greatest threats to today’s health care system, antimicrobial resistance (AMR). What role does animal agriculture play or NOT play?
How do we relay this information, in a way that is truthful and creates understanding? We see and hear misinterpreted and misquoted information about animal agriculture on a consistent basis. How do we reach the media and the public with factual information?
Symposium Speaker Kate Brooks, PhD, Associate Professor of Agricultural Economics at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, will provide a presentation on Avoidance Behavior: Does Ignorance Keep Us Uninformed About Antimicrobial Resistance?
Brooks is currently involved in a study, along with several co–authors, to understand why communications fail. What obstacles, if any, are between the message and the listener which keep the message from being received, understood or believed?
One such obstacle is information avoidance behavior. Preliminary results of the study, which is in the process of being published, looks at how this impacts the communications from the scientific and animal agriculture worlds to the general public about AMR, animal welfare and other important issues.
“We already know that many of us we avoid information if it goes against our beliefs, or makes us uncomfortable,” says Brooks. It is obvious in our political climate today that if we disagree with ideas which are in conflict with our own, no communication seems to change our minds. For the most part, we will ignore or avoid it.
The old axiom of “Don’t confuse me with facts!” applies when we think we already know all we want to about a subject, and avoid any further information that may conflict with our previous knowledge. One example Brooks cites is a nationally represented survey on AMR where participants had the choice between watching a short video on AMR or watching a video the same length of white noise. About 40% of participants chose to watch the white noise.
Another obstacle to understanding how communications are received involves the difference between subjective and objective knowledge. Subjectively, from our own point of view, what we believe to be true includes our feelings, perceptions, and concerns on the matter. Objective knowledge, which includes observable and measurable data, may show something very different.
For example, in a polling or survey situation you may vote for what sounds best for the greater good, but when you actually go down to the grocery store, your purchases may not reflect those same values. Even when you know there will be a greater cost and are willing to pay for something in theory, you may not be willing or able to do so out of your own pocket in reality. So, what is being SAID differs from what is being DONE.
When it comes to where people get their information, the impact of social media weighs heavily. “There is so much information out there it is hard to understand what to believe in,” says Brooks. “There are more and more people to follow and whoever speaks the loudest or agrees with what we already know are often the influencers on what we think.”
What does Brooks think is a positive way of messaging that is currently in place? “We are seeing more farmers, ranchers and producers standing up and saying this is what I do and why I do it,” she says. “That is at the forefront of getting that information out there honestly and transparently.”
However, not everyone has the willfully ignorant response of people who don’t want to learn more. Brooks says those in the study with little previous knowledge of AMR, who did not avoid the information but were open to learning, had the greatest increase in their knowledge.
Does that mean that even with the seemingly endless and often negative discussion in the media of animal agriculture and AMR, those people had not been exposed to it? How do we reach them in the future?
“We might have to have a variety of media sources as one source might not work for every group,” says Brook. “We have to ask are there different ways to frame the information that would help them get the information and if necessary, be dynamic enough to change their belief?”
What is the key to meeting those motivators that make people want to change or think? “Whether it is AMR or something else,” says Brooks, “it is trying to understand why they would avoid the information, so we can find other ways we can get this information to them.”
Which is exactly why the NIAA Antibiotic Symposium to be held October 15–17 in Ames, Iowa, has included Communicating the Science of Responsible Antibiotic Use in Animal Agriculture as a major part of its agenda, along with science updates and innovation and alternatives. F
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