Prevention and surveillance of public health risks during extended mass gatherings in rural areas: the experience of the Tamworth Country Music Festival, Australia

Polkinghorne, B.G., Massey, P.D., Durrheim, D.N., Byrnes, T., and MacIntyre, C.R. (2013) Prevention and surveillance of public health risks during extended mass gatherings in rural areas: the experience of the Tamworth Country Music Festival, Australia. Public Health, 127 (1). pp. 32-38.

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Abstract

Objective: To describe and evaluate the public health response to the Tamworth Country Music Festival, an annual extended mass gathering in rural New South Wales, Australia; and to propose a framework for responding to similar rural mass gatherings.

Study design: Process evaluation by direct observation, archival analysis and focus group discussion.

Methods: The various components of the public health response to the 2011 Tamworth Country Music Festival were actively recorded. An archival review of documentation from 2007 to 2010 was performed to provide context. A focus group was also conducted to discuss the evolution of the public health response and the consequences of public health involvement.

Results: Public health risks increased with increasing duration of the rural mass gathering. Major events held within the rural mass gathering further strained resources. The prevention, preparedness, response and recovery principles provided a useful framework for public health actions. Particular risks included inadequately trained food preparation volunteers functioning in poorly equipped temporary facilities, heat-related ailments and arboviral disease.

Conclusion: Extended mass gatherings in rural areas pose particular public health challenges; surge capacity is limited and local infrastructure may be overwhelmed in the event of an acute incident or outbreak. There is value in proactive public health surveillance and monitoring. Annual mass gatherings provide opportunities for continual systems improvement. Early multi-agency planning can identify key risks and identify opportunities for partnership. Special consideration is required for major events within mass gatherings.

Item ID: 25921
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 0033-3506
Keywords: mass gatherings, rural, public health, evaluation, surveillance, Australia
Funders: New South Wales Ministry of Health
Date Deposited: 27 Mar 2013 06:02
FoR Codes: 11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1117 Public Health and Health Services > 111799 Public Health and Health Services not elsewhere classified @ 100%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9204 Public Health (excl. Specific Population Health) > 920407 Health Protection and/or Disaster Response @ 100%
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