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Open Access Research article

Pandemic preparedness: perceptions of vulnerable migrants in Thailand towards WHO-recommended non-pharmaceutical interventions: a cross-sectional study

Jason Hickey1*, Anita J Gagnon2 and Nigoon Jitthai3

Author Affiliations

1 University of Calgary in Qatar, PO Box 23133, Doha, Qatar

2 McGill University Health Centre, 2155 Guy St. #400-09, H3H 2R9 Montreal, QC, Canada

3 USAID Regional Development Mission for Asia, 25F, Athenee Tower, 63 Wireless Road, 10330 Pathumwan, Bangkok, Thailand

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BMC Public Health 2014, 14:665  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-665

Published: 28 June 2014

Abstract

Background

Non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) constituted the principal public health response to the previous influenza A (H1N1) 2009 pandemic and are one key area of ongoing preparation for future pandemics. Thailand is an important point of focus in terms of global pandemic preparedness and response due to its role as the major transportation hub for Southeast Asia, the endemic presence of multiple types of influenza, and its role as a major receiving country for migrants. Our aim was to collect information about vulnerable migrants’ perceptions of and ability to implement NPIs proposed by the WHO. We hope that this information will help us to gauge the capacity of this population to engage in pandemic preparedness and response efforts, and to identify potential barriers to NPI effectiveness.

Methods

A cross-sectional survey was performed. The study was conducted during the influenza H1N1 2009 pandemic and included 801 migrant participants living in border areas thought to be high risk by the Thailand Ministry of Public Health. Data were collected by Migrant Community Health Workers using a 201-item interviewer-assisted questionnaire. Univariate descriptive analyses were conducted.

Results

With the exception of border measures, to which nearly all participants reported they would be adherent, attitudes towards recommended NPIs were generally negative or uncertain. Other potential barriers to NPI implementation include limited experience applying these interventions (e.g., using a thermometer, wearing a face mask) and inadequate hand washing and household disinfection practices.

Conclusions

Negative or ambivalent attitudes towards NPIs combined with other barriers identified suggest that vulnerable migrants in Thailand have a limited capacity to participate in pandemic preparedness efforts. This limited capacity likely puts migrants at risk of propagating the spread of a pandemic virus. Coordinated risk communication and public education are potential strategies that may reduce barriers to individual NPI implementation.

Keywords:
Influenza; Pandemic preparedness; Disease prevention; Vulnerable migrants; Non-pharmaceutical interventions; Public health