Predicting Support for Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions During Infectious Outbreaks

A Four Region Analysis

Published In: Disasters, v. 39, no. 1, Jan. 2015, p. 125-145

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2014

by Francesca Pillemer, Robert J. Blendon, Alan M. Zaslavsky, Bruce Y. Lee

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Non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) are an important public health tool for responding to infectious disease outbreaks, including pandemics. However, little is known about the individual characteristics associated with support for NPIs, or whether they are consistent across regions. This study draws on survey data from four regions—Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and the United States—collected following the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak of 2002–03, and employs regression techniques to estimate predictors of NPI support. It finds that characteristics associated with NPI support vary widely by region, possibly because of cultural variation and prior experience, and that minority groups tend to be less supportive of NPIs when arrest is the consequence of noncompliance. Prior experience of face-mask usage also results in increased support for future usage, as well as other NPIs. Policymakers should be attentive to local preferences and to the application of compulsory interventions. It is speculated here that some public health interventions may serve as 'gateway' exposures to future public health interventions.

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