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Evaluation of Health Communication Messages Designed to Prevent Illness and Injury after Flooding in Iowa

Aerial view shows city with massive flooding in the streets.

During June 2008, heavy precipitation and 500-year flood events resulted in the displacement of thousands of families throughout Eastern Iowa. To assess the effectiveness and preferred sources of health messages communicated to the public following the disaster, HSB surveyed 327 households in four counties hit hardest by the flooding. Most participants received information regarding vaccination, mold, safe use of well water, respirator use or stress.

Results showed that public health messages were received by a wide audience in the flood-affected communities. Along with more traditional health communication channels such as TV, radio, or newspapers, continued emphasis on the development of health information Websites and other technological alternatives may result in useful and effective health communication in similar situations.

Also, new health messages were communicated to the public targeting health topics and populations where need for additional information and clarification was identified. The lessons learned will provide guidance for effective health communication efforts following other disaster settings.