Funding to examine community awareness of pandemic threat

Jul 9 2009

Hunter researchers have received more than $60,000 to investigate the willingness of Australians to be vaccinated against the pandemic H1N1 influenza (‘swine flu’).

The researchers will use the funding, announced yesterday by the National Health and Medical Research Council, to survey Australians about their understanding of the H1N1 virus.

Professor David Durrheim, from Hunter New England Population Health and the University of Newcastle, will lead the project.

Researchers will examine the measures already adopted by Australians to stop the spread of the virus, such as personal protection, enhanced infection control, emergency preparedness, health and information-seeking behaviour.

“We will also be examining the effectiveness of communication about the threat of the virus,” Professor Durrheim said.

“Effective communication is vital for implementing successful risk reduction and containment strategies, particularly the roll-out of the expected vaccine, so our research will inform future communication strategies and messages.”

“It will allow the Australian Government to tailor its communication to current understanding and concerns of the Australian public, and better equip the Government to help those most at risk.”

The findings of the research will be reported at a symposium in December 2009, to be attended by the Chief Medical Officers of Australia and each state and territory, as well as public health experts.

Professor Durrheim is a member of the University of Newcastle’s Priority Research Centre for Health Behaviour and the Hunter Medical Research Institute’s Public Health Research program.