Grassroots emergency health risk communication and transmedia public participation: H1N1 flu, travelers from epicenters, and cyber vigilantism

Huiling Ding


Grassroots risk reduction tactics took new forms in the era of social media. To reduce the risks
posed by international travelers who might import H1N1 flu virus into China, Chinese netizens
mobilized human flesh searches (HFS) to discipline the early irresponsible overseas returnees
who traveled extensively but paid little attention to risks posed by foreign travelers. The
grassroots risk tactics targeting overseas returnees got quickly appropriated by regional and
national governments both to reduce alienation of overseas Chinese and to discipline overseas
returnees. Analysis of the HFS episodes reveals the need to create interface of interaction
between authorities and the public for open systems of communication and to consider local
public health practices, emotion needs, and values and beliefs, and when designing health risk
communication messages.


Health risk communication, grassroots tactics, epidemics, culture, mass mobilization, affect, values and beliefs, open systems

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