Understanding responses to government health recommendations: public perceptions of government advice for managing the H1N1 (swine flu) influenza pandemic

Patient Educ Couns. 2011 Dec;85(3):413-8. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2010.12.026. Epub 2011 Feb 3.


Objective: To explore people's beliefs, perceptions, reasoning, and emotional and contextual factors that may influence responses to government recommendations for managing flu pandemics.

Methods: Eleven focus groups were conducted with a purposive sample of 48 participants. Participants were invited to discuss their perceptions of the H1N1 pandemic and government advice on recommended actions for managing the H1N1 pandemic.

Results: Thematic analysis showed that participants were skeptical about the feasibility and appropriateness of government recommendations for managing the H1N1 pandemic. They expressed doubts about self-diagnosis and concerns regarding the perceived effectiveness and costs of recommendations to stay home if unwell and get vaccinated.

Conclusions: Government advice is a specialized form of health communication with members of the public. People engage in an active process of evaluating government advice in terms of its credibility, feasibility and costs. To improve future pandemic preparedness, attempts should be made to elicit and address common doubts and concerns people have about following recommended advice.

Practical implications: This study provides preliminary information on potential concerns and issues that could be addressed in future pandemic communications. Further research is needed to elicit and address the public perspective so that the impact of future pandemics may be reduced.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Comprehension
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Government Agencies
  • Health Communication*
  • Humans
  • Influenza A Virus, H1N1 Subtype*
  • Influenza, Human / epidemiology
  • Influenza, Human / prevention & control*
  • Influenza, Human / psychology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics / prevention & control*
  • Perception
  • Public Health
  • Public Opinion
  • Qualitative Research
  • Trust
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Young Adult