Online Program

Are we prepared for the next pandemic threat? A national representative study on 2013 MERS outbreak

Monday, November 2, 2015

Leesa Lin, MSPH, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences/Division of Policy Translation and Leadership Development, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA
K. Viswanath, PhD, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health / Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute / Center for Community-Based Research, Boston, MA
In the last decade, there have been several outbreaks of influenza-like diseases that raised global attention and prompted calls for swift and effective public health and communication responses. Scientists have studied major communication issues pertinent to pandemic outbreaks such as people’s information exposure, knowledge about prevention measures, and adoption of protective behaviors. Communication inequalities, caused by individual/social differences and presented in the preparation for and response to an outbreak, have been identified. In 2012, media reports around the globe on the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak reminded people of the importance of maintaining vigilance and being prepared for emerging public health threats.

In December 2013, we surveyed a national representative sample of 627 American adults. We examined the associations between population’s general awareness of previous large-scale pandemic outbreaks and MERS, as well as their knowledge about the availability of vaccines. We identified the sources where people were first exposed to MERS-related information and assessed the associations between the individual/social determinants and information sources used.

Exposure to public health messages during past pandemic outbreaks significantly increased people’s awareness and knowledge about new public health threats. Information sources that attracted more users than other media outlets were identified. Additionally, we also found significant individual and social differences in the sources where people obtained their initial information about a public health threat.

Crafting health communication campaigns that address the issues of communication inequalities can help deliver preparedness messages to all segments of the population, increase awareness, and cue people to take protective actions.

Learning Areas:

Communication and informatics
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Protection of the public in relation to communicable diseases including prevention or control
Public health or related education
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe and explain the concept and the importance of communication inequalities during a public health emergency. Identify communication inequalities that can affect the effectiveness of a public health communication campaign. Design interventions that address the impact of communication inequalities, improve health communication, and increase public health awareness that could have a positive impact on closing the gap.

Keyword(s): Communication, Emergency Preparedness

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I participated in the study design, data collection and analysis of this particular study; I also drafted the abstract.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.