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Public health information on COVID-19 for international travellers: lessons learned from a mixed-method evaluation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Tingting Zhang, Charlotte Robin, Shenghan Cai, Clare Sawyer, Wendy Rice, Louise Smith, Richard Amlot, James Rubin, Rosy Reynolds, Lucy Yardley, Matthew Hickman, Isabel Oliver, Helen Lambert

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)116 - 123
Number of pages8
JournalPublic Health
Published27 Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: We wish to thank all participants who contributed to this study and all staff in London Heathrow Airport for their kind support. L.Y. is a NIHR Senior Investigator and partly supported by NIHR Applied Research Collaboration (ARC)-West, NIHR Health Protection Research Unit (HPRU) in Behavioural Science and Evaluation, and the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre (BRC). M.H., I.O. and H.L. are supported by the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit (HPRU) in Behavioural Science and Evaluation at the University of Bristol in partnership with Public Health England. L.S. and J.R. are supported by the NIHR HPRUin Emergency Preparedness and Response at King’s College London in partnership with Public Health England. C.R. is affliated to the National Institute for Health Research Health Protection Research Unit (NIHR HPRU) in Emerging and Zoonotic Infections at the University of Liverpool in partnership with Public Health England (PHE), in collaboration with the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and the University of Oxford, the NIHR HPRU in Gastrointestinal Infections at the University of Liverpool in partnership with PHE, in collaboration with the University of Warwick and the NIHR HPRU in Behavioural Science and Evaluation at the University of Bristol, in partnership with PHE. Funding Information: This study was funded by NIHR on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Care. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NIHR, the Department of Health and Social Care, or PHE. Publisher Copyright: © 2021 The Authors Copyright: Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

King's Authors


Objectives: In the containment phase of the response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Public Health England (PHE) delivered advice to travellers arriving at major UK ports. We aimed to rapidly evaluate the impact and effectiveness of these communication materials for passengers in the early stages of the pandemic. Study design: The study design used is the mixed-methods evaluation. Methods: A questionnaire survey and follow-up interviews with passengers arriving at London Heathrow Airport on scheduled flights from China and Singapore. The survey assessed passengers’ knowledge of symptoms, actions to take, and attitudes towards PHE COVID-19 public health information; interviews explored their views of official public health information and self-isolation. Results: One hundred and twenty-one passengers participated in the survey and 15 in follow-up interviews. Eighty three percentage of surveyed passengers correctly identified all three COVID-19 associated symptoms listed in PHE information at that time. Most could identify the recommended actions and found the advice understandable and trustworthy. Interviews revealed that passengers shared concerns about the lack of wider official action, and that passengers’ knowledge had been acquired elsewhere as much from PHE. Respondents also noted their own agency in choosing to self-isolate, partially as a self-protective measure. Conclusion: PHE COVID-19 public health information was perceived as clear and acceptable, but we found that passengers acquired knowledge from various sources and they saw the provision of information alone on arrival as an insufficient official response. Our study provides fresh insights into the importance of taking greater account of diverse information sources and of the need for public assurance in creating public health information materials to address global health threats.

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