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Public Health Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication to Family Physicians in Canada: A Phenomenological Exploration Open Access


Other title
Public Health
Family Physician
Risk Communication
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Kain, Nicole A
Supervisor and department
Jardine, Cindy (Public Health)
Examining committee member and department
Cave, Andrew (Family Medicine)
van Manen, Michael (Pediatrics)
Ross, Shelley (Family Medicine)
Clark, Alex (Nursing)
Waugh, Earle (Family Medicine)
Howard, Patrick (Education)
School of Public Health
Public Health
Date accepted
Graduation date
2017-06:Spring 2017
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Family physicians are a cornerstone of the Canadian public health and health care systems. During times of public health crisis, the role of the family physician as both recipient and translator of complex and rapidly-evolving health information is emphasized. How family physicians actually experience public health crises while practicing medicine on the front lines is rarely illuminated in the literature; and qualitative investigations relating to the risk communication processes surrounding such events to this particular knowledge-user community are scarce. The primary purpose of my research was to explore how public health crises and the related risk communication processes surrounding such events are experienced by family physicians in Canada, utilizing a phenomenological approach. I also sought to offer insights from family physicians on how public health agencies and professional organizations might improve risk communication to this community in the event of a future public health crisis. Secondary to the phenomenological exploration, I aimed to determine the current understanding and knowledge gaps about this phenomenon as can be gleaned from the literature. I conducted individual phenomenological interviews with sixteen family physicians across Canada. The interview data were subjected to two different analytical methods: a phenomenological interpretation and a qualitative content analysis. I then supplemented and situated the core phenomenological project with a scoping review on the current reporting of ways in which public health crisis and emergency risk information is communicated to family physicians. My findings resulted in the formulation of four papers: a scoping review; a phenomenological paper; a qualitative content analysis; and a short commentary paper. The results of my research illuminate what it may actually be like to live through or experience a public health crisis as a family physician in Canada. My findings also point to varied and experiential advice on how to improve risk communications to family physicians in the event of a future public health crisis.
This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for the purpose of private, scholarly or scientific research. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
Citation for previous publication
Kain, N. & Jardine, C. (2016) The evolving face of public health crises in Canada; Are we ready? Canadian Medical Association Journal Blogs. Available at:
(Accessed: 18 January 2017).

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