Journal Article

The Singaporean response to the SARS outbreak: knowledge sufficiency versus public trust

M. Deurenberg-Yap, L. L. Foo, Y. Y. Low, S. P. Chan, K. Vijaya and M. Lee

in Health Promotion International

Volume 20, issue 4, pages 320-326
Published in print December 2005 | ISSN: 0957-4824
Published online June 2005 | e-ISSN: 1460-2245 | DOI:
The Singaporean response to the SARS outbreak: knowledge sufficiency versus public trust

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During the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in Singapore from 1 March to 11 May 2003, various national prevention and control measures were undertaken to control and eliminate the transmission of the infection. During the initial period of the epidemic, public communication was effected through press releases and media coverage of the epidemic. About a month into the epidemic, a public education campaign was mounted to educate Singaporeans on SARS and adoption of appropriate behaviours to prevent the spread of the disease. A survey was conducted in late April 2003 to assess Singaporeans' knowledge about SARS and infection control measures, and their concerns and anxiety in relation to the outbreak. The survey also sought to assess their confidence in the ability of various institutions to deal with SARS and their opinion on the seemingly tough measures enforced. The study involved 853 adults selected from a telephone-sampling frame. Stratified sampling was used to ensure adequate representation from major ethnic groups and age groups. The study showed that the overall knowledge about SARS and control measures undertaken was low (mean per cent score of 24.5 ± 8.9%). While 82% of respondents expressed confidence in measures undertaken by Tan Tock Seng Hospital (the hospital designated to manage SARS), only 36% had confidence in nursing homes. However, >80% of the public agreed that the preventive and control measures instituted were appropriate. Despite the low knowledge score, the overall mean satisfaction score of the government's response to SARS was 4.47 (out of possible highest score of 5.00), with >93% of adult Singaporeans indicating that they were satisfied or very satisfied with the government's response to SARS. Generally, Singaporeans had a high level of public trust (satisfaction with government, confidence in institutions, deeming government measures appropriate), scoring 11.4 out of possible maximum of 14. The disparity between low knowledge on the one hand and high confidence and trust in the actions of the government on the other suggests that Singaporeans do not require high knowledge sufficiency to be confident in measures undertaken by the government to control the SARS crisis.

Keywords: knowledge; response; SARS; Singapore; trust

Journal Article.  3815 words. 

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology

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