Five Questions with Meredith Li-Vollmer, Risk Communication Specialist, Public Health – Seattle & King County

Meredith Li-Vollmer1, What is Risk Communications? Risk communications involves providing information and engaging audiences about issues of concern or perceived threats in ways that will help people cope, make informed decisions, and understand their risks. This means we need to show empathy for what people are experiencing, be as open and transparent as we can about what we’re doing and why, and start communicating as soon as possible.

2. What do you do as Risk Communication Specialist for Public Health? I support the health department’s programs that work with disease outbreaks and other health threats, and I develop our plans for communicating during public health emergencies. During crisis situations, I work on a team to communicate critical health and safety information. As part of my job, I work with the news media, manage social media, and find ways to reach everyone in King County, especially those with the greatest barriers in accessing information.  I talk with members of diverse communities to learn how they get information, who they trust for information, and how we can better reach them. I try to put what I learn into action by improving our public information materials and communication channels. Much of the work is collaborative with other programs that can help build the relationships we need to communicate effectively. We use these improvements for everyday communications, not just for emergencies.

3, What do you like most about your job? I love working with a tight-knit team of talented, passionate people who are committed to the public health mission. I also love that I am always learning something new and I get to use a wide set of skills in my work. Depending on the day, I might be writing a comic book about influenza, or asking immigrant community members about their views on immunizations, or running through an exercise for a simulated earthquake. There is never a dull moment!

4. What are looking forward to doing next? I just took a King County training on visual mapping and loved it! I used it to illustrate my team’s body of work and priorities for the year. I look forward to doing more drawing to help communicate, and also capturing more stories from employees on our blog and in short videos.

5. What is the biggest challenge in your job? Finding time to do everything I want to do!