Aquatic Animal Health Code
In general, communication entails the exchange of information between various individual, institutional and public groups for purposes of informing, guiding and motivating action. The application of the science and technique of communication involves modulating messages in accordance with situations, objectives and target audiences.
The recognition of communication as a discipline of the Aquatic Animal Health Services and its incorporation within it is critical for their operations. The integration of aquatic animal health and communication expertises is essential for effective communication. Communication between the Aquatic Animal Health Services and Veterinary Services (particularly where Aquatic Animal Health Services are separate from, and independent of Veterinary Services) is especially important.
Communication should be an integral part of all the activities of the Aquatic Animal Health Services including animal health (surveillance, early detection and rapid response, prevention and control), aquatic animal welfare and veterinary public health (food safety, zoonoses) and veterinary medicine.
Objectives of this chapter on communication for the Aquatic Animal Health Services are to provide guidance for the development of a communication system, strategic and operational communication plans and elements to assess their quality.
Principles of communication
Aquatic Animal Health Services should have the authority and capability to communicate on matters within their mandate.
Aquatic animal health and communication expertises should be combined.
Communication should be targeted and follow the fundamental criteria of transparency, consistency, timeliness, balance, accuracy, honesty and empathy and respect the fundamental principles of quality of Aquatic Animal Health Services (Article 3.1.2.)
Communication should be a continuous process.
Aquatic Animal Health Services should have oversight of planning, implementing, monitoring, evaluating and revising their strategic and operational communication plans.
Communication: means the discipline of informing, guiding and motivating individual, institutional and public groups, ideally on the basis of interactive exchanges, about any issue under the competence of the Aquatic Animal Health Services.
Crisis: means a situation of great threat, difficulty or uncertainty when issues under the competence of the Aquatic Animal Health Services require immediate action.
Crisis communication: means the process of communicating information as accurately as possible, albiet potentially incomplete, within time constraints in the event of a crisis.
Outbreak communication: means the process of communicating in the event of an outbreak. Outbreak communication includes notification.
In addition to the Principles of Communication the following elements should be used in conjunction with Chapter 3.1., when planning, implementing and assessing a communication system:
Organisational chart indicating a direct link between the communication personnel and the Competent Authority, through the chain of command such as dedicated communication unit and communication officer
Identified and accessible official communication focal point
Job descriptions of communication personnel identifying roles and responsibilities
Sufficient number of qualified personnel with knowledge, skills, attitude and abilities relevant to communication
Continuous training and education on communication provided to communication personnel.
Financial and physical resources
Clearly identified budget for communication that provides adequate funding
Provision or access to appropriate material resources in order to carry out roles and responsibilities: suitable premises or accommodation that is adequately equipped with sufficient office and technical equipment, including information technology and access to the Internet.
Management of the communication system
Roles and responsibilities of the communication personnel
Report to the Competent Authority
Engage in decision-making process by providing guidance and expertise on communication issues to the Competent Authority
Be responsible for the planning, implementation and evaluation of the strategic and operational plans for communication and relevant standard operating procedures
Function as contact point on communication issues for the Aquatic Animal Health Services
Provide and coordinate continuous education on communication for the Aquatic Animal Health Services.
Strategic plan for communication
A well-designed strategic plan for communication should support the Aquatic Animal Health Services strategic plan and have management support and commitment. The strategic plan for communication should address all high level organization-wide long-term communication objectives.
A strategic plan for communication should be monitored and periodically reviewed, and should identify measurable performance objectives and techniques to assess the effectiveness of communication.
The strategic plan for communication should consider the different types of communication: routine communication, risk communication, outbreak communication and crisis communication, to allow individuals, affected or interested parties, an entire community or the general public to make the best possible decisions and be informed of policy decisions and their rationale.
The key outcomes in effectively implementing a strategic plan for communication are increased knowledge and awareness of issues by the public and stakeholders, higher understanding of the role of the Aquatic Animal Health Services, higher visibility of and improved trust and credibility in the Aquatic Animal Health Services. These will enhance understanding and/or acceptance of policy decisions and subsequent change of perception, attitude and/or behaviour.
Operational plans for communication
Operational plans for communication should be based on the assessment of specific issues and should identify specific objectives and target audiences such as staff, partners, stakeholders, media and the general public.
Each operational plan for communication should consist of a well-planned series of activities using different techniques, tools, messages and channels to achieve intended objectives and utilising available resources within a specific timeframe.
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