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H1N1 survey by ASU reveals Arizonans’ flu season plans

November 09, 2009

Arizonans are gearing up for more H1N1 activity this flu season, and a new survey reveals how much they really know about the virus and how they're preparing for its spread.

The new survey of more than 700 Arizona households was designed and analyzed by faculty and students from the School of Health Management and Policy at the W. P. Carey School of Business, the Decision Theater at the Global Institute of Sustainability, and the School of Public Affairs at Arizona State University. The study was sponsored by the Arizona Department of Health Services and was conducted during the month of October. The results will be used by public information officials from various hospitals, public health agencies and related organizations to determine how to best communicate to the public about H1N1 influenza.

"The survey was designed to reach the household member primarily responsible for making health care decisions," says Megan Jehn, assistant professor of health management and policy at ASU. "We wanted to gauge people's knowledge of H1N1, where they might go for treatment and what might trigger that action. The objective is to help officials better communicate with Arizonans about the virus and, in turn, to help our hospitals best serve the community by keeping them from being overwhelmed."

Among other things, the study found:

• Many people didn't know that the swine flu being discussed in the media and H1N1 are the same virus.
• About half of those surveyed either don't want – or haven't decided whether they want – the H1N1 vaccine.
• About a fifth of those surveyed didn't know there was an H1N1 vaccine until asked.
• Many people think it's more important to see a doctor if you have H1N1 flu than if you have seasonal flu.
• Many believe it's tougher to get H1N1 than seasonal flu.
• Most of those surveyed do seem to understand how to prevent H1N1, such as by washing hands frequently or avoiding large groups when possible.
• About a third of those surveyed believe a family member will get sick with H1N1.
• Most Arizonans are following information about H1N1 somewhat or very closely.
• Their most common source of information is the local television news.

Additional survey findings will be both posted at and released at a special one-day, invitation-only workshop for public information officials today. The workshop is designed to help officials develop messages about H1N1 and communicate them effectively to the public to help manage the pandemic flu response.

"Effective communication on H1N1, or any public health issue, is critical to making the best decisions," says assistant research professor Timothy Lant from the Decision Theater at ASU. "We hope the results of our survey will help provide specific insights on what people now know about H1N1, what they need to know and how professionals can get the needed information to them."

Bob England, director of the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, will be among the speakers at the workshop. He will talk about the public health perspective on H1N1, including lessons learned from the outbreak so far. The Arizona Department of Health Services is sponsoring the event.