Developing and evaluating an online intervention to improve the uptake and maintenance of protective behaviours against COVID‑19 among young adults in Canada
COVID‑19 is a worldwide pandemic, and currently no vaccine exists. Thus, many public health officials have recommended physical distancing and wearing masks as key personal protective behaviors to prevent unnecessary deaths and reduce burden on the healthcare system. However, these behaviours can be difficult to adhere to, and the general public may be asked to do them for a long time. Messages from public health officials tend to use an inconsistent approaches that are not based in established theories that explain how to help change people’s behaviour. The purpose of this project is to create a program designed to motivate people to physically distance and wear masks by helping them feel that these COVID‑19 protective behaviours are tied to a greater societal goal that is larger than themselves and that they are capable of successfully performing them. Motivating people in this way may be more successful in the long run than by relying on fear alone. We plan to create a brief, single-session, interactive online program that understands people’s physical distancing and masking behaviour and, based on their responses, provides feedback in real time to either reinforce people’s motivation or guide them to consider potential sources of motivation through thought-provoking questions. At the end of the session, people will be provided with a personalized statement of commitment that they can share on social media. We have decided to target young people, who are more likely not to adhere to public health recommendations surrounding COVID-19. The program will be created based on the experiences of a diverse sample of Canadians, will be improved based on user feedback, and will be available in French and English. If effective, a program that could increase motivation for physical distancing and wearing face masks that is relevant and accessible to as many Canadians as possible may help us navigate the COVID‑19 pandemic faster and more safely.