The Impact of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease Control Policies in Singapore: A Qualitative Analysis of Public Perceptions

Abstract

Hand foot and mouth disease (HFMD) is a widespread pediatric disease in Asia. Most cases are relatively mild and caused by Coxsackie viruses, but in epidemics caused by Enterovirus 71, severe complications can occur. In response to the deaths of dozens of children in a 1997 outbreak (Podin in BMC Public Health 6:180,1 Abubakar in Virus Res 61(1):1-9,2 WHO in3), Singapore practices childcare centre surveillance, case-isolation, and short-term closure of centres. We conducted 44 in-depth interviews with teachers, principals, and parents at four childcare centres in Singapore to better understand experiences with current control policies. We used applied thematic analysis to identify recurrent and unique themes. Participants were conflicted by perceiving HFMD as a severe illness and reported a sense of helplessness when hygiene and social-isolation efforts failed. They perceived that severity of HFMD influenced Singapore’s choice of existing policies despite a lack of evidence of their effectiveness. Documenting stakeholders’ perspectives clarifies the impact of control measures and how to communicate policy changes.

Citation: Siegel K, Cook AR, La H. The impact of hand, foot and mouth disease control policies in Singapore: A qualitative analysis of public perceptions. J Public Health Policy. 2017;38(2):271–287. doi:10.1057/s41271-017-0066-z

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