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

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Marfori, MT, Campbell, SL, Garvey, K, McKeown, S, Veitch, M, Wheeler, AJ ORCID: 0000-0001-9288-8163, Borchers-Arriagada, N ORCID: 0000-0001-8973-5692 and Johnston, FH ORCID: 0000-0002-5150-8678 2020 , 'Public health messaging during extreme smoke events: are we hitting the mark?' , Frontiers in Public Health, vol. 8 , pp. 1-11 , doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2020.00465.

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Abstract

Background: Emergency services working to protect communities from harm duringwildfires aim to provide regular public advisories on the hazards from fire and smoke.However, there are few studies evaluating the success of public health communicationsregarding the management of smoke exposure. We explored the responses tosmoke-related health advisories of people living in a severely smoke-affected regionduring extensive wildfires in Tasmania, Australia early in 2019. We also evaluatedthe acceptability of portable high efficiency particle air (HEPA) cleaners used in studyparticipant’s homes during the smoky period.Methods: We conducted semi-structured interviews with 24 households in the HuonValley region of Tasmania following a severe smoke episode. These households wereinitially recruited into a HEPA cleaner study. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, andanalyzed for common themes using an inductive framework approach.Results: Public health messaging during the 2019 wildfire event in Tasmania waswidely shared and understood, with social media playing a central role. However,some participants expressed concerns about the timeliness and effectiveness ofthe recommended interventions, and some would have appreciated more detailedinformation about the health risks from smoke. Public messages and actions to protecthouseholds from wildfire threat were, at times, contradictory or dominated in coverageover the smoke messaging, and many participants were conflicted with the multiplepublic messages and action relating to the more serious perceived threat from the fire.Conclusions: Public messaging about smoke and health should continue to usemultiple avenues of communication, with a focus on simple messages provided throughsocial media. Messaging about the smoke hazard should be available from a trustedcentral source regarding all aspects of the wildfire emergency, with links to more detailedinformation including local air quality data alongside interpretation of the associatedhealth risks.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Marfori, MT and Campbell, SL and Garvey, K and McKeown, S and Veitch, M and Wheeler, AJ and Borchers-Arriagada, N and Johnston, FH
Keywords: public health, air quality, PM2.5, fire, risk communication, smoke, public health, social media
Journal or Publication Title: Frontiers in Public Health
Publisher: Frontiers Research Foundation
ISSN: 2296-2565
DOI / ID Number: 10.3389/fpubh.2020.00465
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2020 Marfori, Campbell, Garvey, McKeown, Veitch, Wheeler, Borchers-Arriagada and Johnston. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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