Dynamics of an effective risk communication campaign for Influenza A (H1N1)

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Gray, L.; Mackie, B.; MacDonald, C.; Paton, D.; Johnston, D.M.; Johal, S.; Cunningham. C.; Wenn, J.; Baker, M. 2011 Dynamics of an effective risk communication campaign for Influenza A (H1N1). Lower Hutt, N.Z.: GNS Science. GNS Science report 2011/04 44 p.

Abstract: This research is part of an Influenza A (H1N1) Rapid Response Research Initiative launched in partnership with the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) and the Ministry of Health in order to support research that aims to inform and advance understanding of the Influenza A (H1N1) 2009 and subsequent pandemics. The primary objective of the study was to rapidly provide health authorities with practical information to guide the development and delivery of key health messages for H1N1 and other health campaigns. The study collected qualitative information about community responses to key health messages in the 2009 and 2010 H1N1 campaigns, the impact of messages on behavioural change and the differential impact on vulnerable groups. Eight focus groups were held in greater Wellington and Auckland between May and July 2010. Participants were deliberately selected (theoretically-sampled) to include those identified by the Ministry of Health as vulnerable to the H1N1 virus; such as people with heart conditions, those with diabetes, pregnant women and children. A thematic analysis of the qualitative data identified four major themes and a number of sub-themes that represented how the New Zealand public understood and interpreted health messages about H1N1. The main themes were risk, building community strategies, responsibility and information sources. Exploring the participants’ ideas, opinions and beliefs revealed many issues associated with the uptake of health risk messages. Combined with a comprehensive review of current New Zealand and international literature and relevant health behaviour theories, this report presents the major findings and suggests that engaging with communities will be essential to facilitate preparedness and build community resilience to future pandemic events. People wanted messages about specific actions that they could take to protect themselves and their families and to mitigate any consequences. They wanted transparent and honest communication where both good and bad news is conveyed. There was a clear desire across all groups for clear and specific information, such as infection and/or death rates and defining symptoms. Participants for this study represented diverse cultures and ethnicities. Some differences were identified in the analysis. The importance of these differences is not the differences per se but it is that they highlight the problem with a “one size fits all” pandemic warning strategy. The responses from all groups endorsed the need for community based risk management including, information dissemination. This research provides a clear illustration of the complexities of how people understand and respond to health messages relayed to the H1N1 pandemic. Agencies must acknowledge that the public are diverse and need to be involved in the development and management of pandemic response initiatives appropriate for different communities.(auth)