Title: Adequacy of public health communications on H7N9 and MERS in Singapore: insights from a community based cross-sectional study
Authors: Yan’an Hou, Yi-roe Tan, Wei Yen Lim, Vernon Lee, Linda Wei Lin Tan, Mark I-Cheng Chen & Peiling Yap
Background: Singapore remains vulnerable to worldwide epidemics due to high air traffic with other countries This study aims to measure the public’s awareness of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Avian Influenza A (H7N9), identify population groups who are uninformed or misinformed about the diseases, understand their choice of outbreak information source, and assess the effectiveness of communication channels in Singapore.
Methods: A cross-sectional study, comprising of face-to-face interviews, was conducted between June and December 2013 to assess the public’s awareness and knowledge of MERS and H7N9, including their choice of information source. Respondents were randomly selected and recruited from 3 existing cohort studies. An opportunistic sampling approach was also used to recruit new participants or members in the same household through referrals from existing participants.
Results: Out of 2969 participants, 53.2% and 79.4% were not aware of H7N9 and MERS respectively. Participants who were older and better educated were most likely to hear about the diseases. The mean total knowledge score was 9.2 (S.D ± 2.3) out of 20, and 5.9 (S.D ± 1.2) out of 10 for H7N9 and MERS respectively. Participants who were Chinese, more educated and older had better knowledge of the diseases. Television and radio were the primary sources of outbreak information regardless of socio-demographic factors.
Conclusion: Heightening education of infectious outbreaks through appropriate media to the young and less educated could increase awareness.
This timespace follows the World Health Organization's situation reports regarding the COVID-19 outbreak that started in Hubei, China, in January 2020. Cover photograph taken in Japan by Jérémy Stenuit.