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A Comparison of China’s Risk Communication in Response to SARS and H7N9 Using Principles Drawn From International Practice

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 October 2017

Wuqi Qiu
Affiliation:
Department of Public Health Information Research, Institute of Medical Information, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, China
Cordia Chu*
Affiliation:
Center for Environment and Population Health, Griffith University, Australia
Xiaohui Hou
Affiliation:
Department of Science, Education and International Cooperation, Chinese Center for Health Education, China
Shannon Rutherford
Affiliation:
Center for Environment and Population Health, Griffith University, Australia
Bin Zhu
Affiliation:
Health Emergency Center, Hangzhou Center for Disease Control and Prevention, China (Bin Zhu)
Zhendong Tong
Affiliation:
Department of Emergency Management, Zhoushan Center for Disease Control and Prevention, China
Ayan Mao
Affiliation:
Department of Public Health Information Research, Institute of Medical Information, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, China
*Corresponding
Correspondence and reprint requests to Professor Cordia Chu, Center for Environment and Population Health, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia (C.Chu@griffith.edu.au).

Abstract

Background

China’s emergency management of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) was heavily criticized, whereas the H7N9 response was praised by the international community.

Aims

The aims of this study were to examine and compare the strengths and weaknesses of risk communication conducted in response to SARS and H7N9 and their associated social impacts on affected communities in China.

Method

A qualitative comparative case study approach was employed in the present study, using a set of 8 risk communication principles selected from international literature to suit the Chinese context for the comparative analysis of emergency responses of SARS and H7N9.

Results

The study found significant differences in the risk communication conducted in the 2 cases. The SARS outbreak fully exposed China’s lack of experience in public health risk communication. By contrast, the Chinese government’s risk communication strategies had improved significantly during the H7N9 outbreak.

Discussion

Trust is the basis for communication. Maintaining an open and honest attitude and actively engaging stakeholders to address their risk information needs will serve to build trust and facilitate multi-sector collaborations in dealing with a public health crisis.

Conclusions

From SARS to H7N9, risk communication practices in China greatly improved, which, in turn, lessened adverse social impacts and improved outcomes in emergency management of public health crises. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2018;12:587–598)

Type
Original Research
Copyright
Copyright © Society for Disaster Medicine and Public Health, Inc. 2017 

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