Working Group

Ethical Use of AI in
Public Health
Communications
In 2024, the Analysis and Response Toolkit for Trust (ARTT) project, together with the National Public Health Information Coalition (NPHIC) will convene an Ethical Use of AI in Public Health Communications Working Group.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) developments, especially generative AI, offer better, more efficient, and even more creative ways of working, a promise that is attractive to many workplaces, including overworked and under-resourced communication departments.

However, what is the appropriate use of AI in public health communications? For example, there are three challenges for public health communicators seeking to take advantage of the benefits of AI-powered tools:

  • Accuracy: While AI can create paragraphs in split seconds, it can also create sources and “facts” out of thin air as well; when the topic is health, however, information must be accurate in order to ensure public safety.
  • Authority: Should a public health department use content created by AI, a question might be asked: who exactly is the authority behind the information – is it the public health department or organization, for example, or is it the AI itself?
  • Authenticity: How much of a messaging campaign or even basic message must be created or edited by a public health professional, in order for the information to seem authentic from the organization versus a “bot”? This challenge matters more if there is a question of community trust involved.

To address these challenges, the ARTT project is working with the National Public Health Information Coalition (NPHIC) to host a working group to develop a set of practical guidelines or best practices for public health communication professionals. These new guidelines will encompass different AI technologies and actual use cases for communicators. The working group aims to share a draft of the guidelines for feedback in 2024.

For this first version of proposed best practices, members of the working group represent and bring insights from a broad spectrum of public health communications in the United States and its territories. In addition, the working group will have the support of advisory members who are able to offer additional perspectives.

Ethical Use of AI in Public Health Communications Working Group members include:

  • Andrea Bagnall Degos, Communications Director Rhode Island Department of Health
  • Ann Rowe, Independent Risk/Crisis Communications Consultant, Bureau of Preparedness & Response / DEPCS, Florida Department of Health
  • Elizabeth Perez, Chief of Public Affairs and Equity, Executive Office for Public Affairs and Equity (OPAE), Washington State Department of Health
  • Glen Nowak, Co-director of the Center for Health and Risk Communication, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies in the Grady College, University of Georgia
  • Jane Esworthy, Senior Director, Public Relations, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO)
  • Johnnie (Chip) Allen, Health Equity Consultant, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Khalilah LeGrand, Vice President of Communications and Public Relations, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO)
  • Kristin Howard, Director of Communications and Public Affairs Franklin County Public Health (Ohio)
  • Mark Miller, Vice President of Communications, de Beaumont Foundation
  • Michael Grela, EVP, Head of Reputation, Public Health & Social Impact, Inizio Evoke Comms, and past president and steering committee member, Society for Health Communication

Working group advisors include:

  • Amanda Yarnell, Senior Director, Center for Health Communication, Instructor, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • Elizabeth (Betsy) Mitchell, Director, Division for Communication Science and Services, Office of Communications, CDC

The working group is co-chaired by Robert Jennings (NPHIC) and Connie Moon Sehat (ARTT).

Last updated: February 23, 2024