Public and Allied Health Faculty Publications

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Background: Rapid, accurate communication between public health officials and the community members they serve is essential for public health protection and safety. “Do not drink” water advisories are public health emergencies that periodically occur in Northwest Ohio. The City of Toledo issued a “do not drink” advisory to approximately 400,000 residents in August 2014. Most families learned about the “do not drink” advisory from television news networks. However, communication preferences among young adults differ greatly from older generations. The purpose of this study was to identify young adult communication preferences during public health emergencies such as “do not drink” water advisories.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey was used to gauge young adults’ preferred method of communication during public health emergencies and to ask how they have learned about health advisories in the past. The questionnaire was administered electronically to 330 college students at a mid-size public institution in the Midwest.

Results: A total of 291 surveys were collected (88% response rate). When asked “If you have experienced a “do not drink” advisory or other public health emergency, how did you hear about it?” the majority of students (69%) reported television news stations (38%) or Social Media/Facebook (31%). When asked “how would you like to be notified during a public health emergency such as a “do not drink” water advisory?” the majority (70%) preferred text messaging.

Conclusions: Communicating rapidly with members of the community during public health emergencies is vital. Text messaging may be the best way to quickly disseminate critical information to young adults.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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Ohio Journal of Public Health


Ohio Public Health Association