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A need exists for public health strategies regarding extreme weather disasters, which in recent years have become more frequent. This study aimed to understand the public’s perception of extreme cold and its related health risks, which may provide detailed information for public health preparedness during an extreme cold weather event.
To evaluate public perceptions of cold-related health risk and to identify vulnerable groups, we collected responses from 891 participants in a face-to-face survey in Harbin, China. Public perception was measured by calculating the score for each perception question.
Locals perceived that extreme cold weather and related health risks were serious, but thought they could not avoid these risks. The significant difference in perceived acceptance level between age groups suggested that the elderly are a “high health risk, low risk perception” group, meaning that they are relatively more vulnerable owing to their high susceptibility and low awareness of the health risks associated with extreme cold weather.
The elderly should be a priority in risk communication and health protective interventions. This study demonstrated that introducing risk perception into the public health field can identify vulnerable groups with greater needs, which may improve the decision-making of public health intervention strategies. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2017;11:417–421)
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