A framework for capturing the interactions between laypersons' understanding of disease, information gathering behaviors, and actions taken during an epidemic

J Biomed Inform. 2005 Aug;38(4):298-313. doi: 10.1016/j.jbi.2004.12.006. Epub 2005 Jan 30.


This paper provides a description of a methodological framework designed to capture the inter-relationships between the lay publics' understanding of health-related processes, information gathering behaviors, and actions taken during an outbreak. We developed and refined our methods during a study involving eight participants living in severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)-affected areas (Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Toronto). The framework is an adaptation of narrative analysis, a qualitative method that is used to investigate a phenomenon through interpretation of the stories people tell about their experiences. From our work, several hypotheses emerged that will contribute to future research. For example, our findings showed that many decisions in an epidemic are carefully considered and involve use of significant information gathering. Having a good model of lay actions based on information received and beliefs held will contribute to the development of more effective information support systems in the event of a future epidemic.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Decision Support Systems, Clinical*
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Promotion*
  • Hong Kong / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Information Storage and Retrieval / methods*
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Ontario / epidemiology
  • Preventive Medicine / methods*
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Taiwan / epidemiology