Communicating for health

Principle: Timely

Across all health issues, WHO must make information, advice and guidance available in a timely way, so audiences have the information they need when they need it in order to make appropriate health decisions.

Planning questions to ensure communications are timely

WHO communicators should consider these questions when designing communications actions and products that are timely.

  • When health threats are urgent, what are the best methods to engage priority audiences quickly?
  • When are the audiences likely to be faced with a health-related decision for themselves or others on the health topic?
  • How can messages be delivered so that audiences have enough time to understand and act on the message?
  • How can WHO best engage with the press to get messages to the public quickly?
  • Are there times when a health message will be crowded out by competing issues and concerns?
  • Is there a way to deliver a sequence of messages over time that would increase the effectiveness of information and advice?
  • How can WHO support partners so there is timely and consistent dissemination of information and advice?


Communicating in a timely way means engaging the audiences at the time when the health guidance is needed, and when they are receptive to hear and act on it. During health emergencies, for example, this means communicating rapidly what is known and unknown, and providing frequent and reliable updates. For many non-urgent health topics, timeliness means engaging audiences at the point when individuals and policy-makers need to take action. This “just-in-time” messaging is especially relevant for health issues that are seasonal, such as promoting flu vaccines, or when the health issues are more likely to affect specific age groups, such as shingles or pneumonia vaccines. In both cases, WHO will need to determine how to engage audiences when they are most likely to pay attention.

The component sections of this principle discuss how communicators can support timely dissemination of WHO information, advice and guidance by:

  • making sure WHO’s information is available to decision-makers as quickly as possible;
  • timing communications to when decision-makers need to know and take action; and
  • sequencing messages to build the conversation over time.

What we do

The principles highlighted in this Framework apply across the whole of WHO’s communications work. Core WHO communications functions are presented below with links to relevant resources.