Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Public attention to global health threats since 9/11 mostly event-driven, with little substantive change in public preparedness

A new overview piece in Public Opinion Quarterly shows that Americans' attitudes on global health threats, such as avian flu, anthrax, and West Nile Virus, have been heavily event driven since 2001, and that awareness and knowledge levels have shown little or no substantive increases as a result of awareness campaigns or other efforts to increase public preparedness. Here is a short section from the introductory paragraphs of our study:

"The polls show that Americans’ attention to news coverage seemed to be event driven, peaking when there were new human or animal cases, and decreasing rapidly when the diseases seemed to have been contained. Americans’ perceptions of threats were usually the highest in the early stages of major outbreaks. The public became more complacent when the outbreaks seemed to be under control. Both behavioral changes and general knowledge remained largely constant, suggesting a limited impact of the various informational and awareness campaigns by governmental agencies in the wake of these pandemics."
(For the complete article, click here -- Ho, S., Brossard, D., & Scheufele, D. A. (2007). The Polls – Trends: Public reactions to global health threats and infectious diseases. Public Opinion Quarterly, 71(4), 671-692.)