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Public health messaging during extreme smoke events: are we hitting the mark?


Marfori, MT and Campbell, SL and Garvey, K and McKeown, S and Veitch, M and Wheeler, AJ and Borchers-Arriagada, N and Johnston, FH, Public health messaging during extreme smoke events: are we hitting the mark?, Frontiers in Public Health, 8 Article 465. ISSN 2296-2565 (2020) [Refereed Article]


Copyright Statement

Copyright 2020 Marfori, Campbell, Garvey, McKeown, Veitch, Wheeler, Borchers- Arriagada and Johnston. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

DOI: doi:10.3389/fpubh.2020.00465


Background: Emergency services working to protect communities from harm during wildfires aim to provide regular public advisories on the hazards from fire and smoke. However, there are few studies evaluating the success of public health communications regarding the management of smoke exposure. We explored the responses to smoke-related health advisories of people living in a severely smoke-affected region during extensive wildfires in Tasmania, Australia early in 2019. We also evaluated the acceptability of portable high efficiency particle air (HEPA) cleaners used in study participantís homes during the smoky period.

Methods: We conducted semi-structured interviews with 24 households in the Huon Valley region of Tasmania following a severe smoke episode. These households were initially recruited into a HEPA cleaner study. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed for common themes using an inductive framework approach.

Results: Public health messaging during the 2019 wildfire event in Tasmania was widely shared and understood, with social media playing a central role. However, some participants expressed concerns about the timeliness and effectiveness of the recommended interventions, and some would have appreciated more detailed information about the health risks from smoke. Public messages and actions to protect households from wildfire threat were, at times, contradictory or dominated in coverage over the smoke messaging, and many participants were conflicted with the multiple public messages and action relating to the more serious perceived threat from the fire.

Conclusions: Public messaging about smoke and health should continue to use multiple avenues of communication, with a focus on simple messages provided through social media. Messaging about the smoke hazard should be available from a trusted central source regarding all aspects of the wildfire emergency, with links to more detailed information including local air quality data alongside interpretation of the associated health risks.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:public health, air quality, PM2.5, fire, risk communication, smoke, public health, social media
Research Division:Health Sciences
Research Group:Health services and systems
Research Field:Health services and systems not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Public health (excl. specific population health)
Objective Field:Public health (excl. specific population health) not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Marfori, MT (Dr Therese Marfori)
UTAS Author:Campbell, SL (Dr Sharon Campbell)
UTAS Author:Wheeler, AJ (Dr Amanda Wheeler)
UTAS Author:Borchers-Arriagada, N (Mr Nicolas Borchers Arriagada)
UTAS Author:Johnston, FH (Professor Fay Johnston)
ID Code:141067
Year Published:2020
Web of Science® Times Cited:6
Deposited By:Menzies Institute for Medical Research
Deposited On:2020-09-22
Last Modified:2020-10-20
Downloads:17 View Download Statistics

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