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In recent times the world has faced several potential pandemics – SARS, avian (bird) flu, swine flu, and most recently Ebola. The risk of a disease pandemic presents an important challenge for social marketing –to this point, health-related social marketing has focused on chronic diseases (such as cancer, asthma, obesity) and their risk factors (such as tobacco use, physical inactivity, and dietary intake). In the communicable disease field, most of the challenges we have addressed have had simple and proven preventive strategies (such as immunisation and the use of condoms). However, emerging pandemic diseases pose new challenges – notably in the global scale of the threat, the rapid nature of transmission, and (often) the absence of a known cure or vaccine. In this context, people’s quality of life has scope to be shaped by immense physical and social influences. This chapter reports on a comprehensive study undertaken to inform government policy and practice in the event of an avian influenza pandemic – specifically how to prepare (but not panic) the general public. The research phases included: a media analysis of coverage of a potential pandemic; extensive qualitative formative research; two population CATI surveys; two airport intercept surveys; message development; and message testing. While this research was undertaken in the context of a specific disease, the findings and recommendations are equally relevant to current and future pandemic threats.


Centre for Health and Social Research

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Book Chapter

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