Health Education and Promotion at the Site of an Emergency: Experience From the Chinese Wenchuan Earthquake Response

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Theories and strategies of social mobilization, capacity building, mass and interpersonal communication, as well as risk communication and behavioral change were used to develop health education and promotion campaigns to decrease and prevent injuries and infectious diseases among the survivors of the Wenchuan earthquake in May 2008. We evaluated the effectiveness of the campaigns and short-term interventions using mixed-methods. The earthquake survivors’ health knowledge, skills, and practice improved significantly with respect to injury protection, food and water safety, environmental and personal hygiene, and disease prevention. No infectious disease outbreaks were reported after the earthquake, and the epidemic level was lower than before the earthquake. After a short-term intervention among the students of Leigu Township Primary and Junior School, the proportion of those with personal hygiene increased from 59.7% to 98.3% (p < 0.01). Of the sampled survivors from Wenchuan County, 92.3% reported to have improved their health knowledge and 54.9% improved their health practice (p < 0.01). Thus, health education and promotion during public health emergencies such as earthquakes play an important role in preventing injuries and infectious diseases among survivors.