Using behavioural science approaches to optimize Public Health and Social Measures (PHSM) that prevent COVID‑19 transmission and infection in priority populations in diverse urban settings

Presseau, Justin | $305,721

Ontario Ottawa Hospital Research Institute 2021 CIHR Operating Grant

The WHO has identified Public Health and Social Measures (PHSM; e.g., physical distancing, mask-wearing, vaccination) as “critical to limiting transmission of COVID‑19 and reducing deaths.” PHSM remain vital given variants of concern that are more infectious and/or reduce vaccine effectiveness. It is still unclear what influences whether Canadians engage in PHSM behaviours, what enablers and barriers they face when engaging in them, what influences their long-term use and how these factors differ across specific groups especially historically excluded and equity-deserving groups. This hinders our ability to design tailored, behaviourally optimized, culturally appropriate programs to promote PHSM. We will address this by setting up a responsive, nimble and inclusive platform that will enable our knowledge users (public health units & community groups in 3 Ontario cities) to leverage behavioural science in ways that reflect their evolving priorities as the pandemic continues. We will generate a rapid understanding of what influences engaging in PHSM to create strategies to promote greater uptake and engagement in PHSM in ways that reflect the realities of priority groups in each city (including historically excluded and equity-deserving groups). We will work with our public health and citizen partners to recruit diverse samples that we will interview using a validated behavioural science framework. This will generate information about enablers/barriers to taking up and sustaining PHSM to enable tailoring to each group. We will investigate whether sex, gender, age, and other social identity factors modify enablers/barriers for each PHSM. The results will inform a) public health programs targeting sustained and effective PHSM to reduce risk of transmission and infection and b) management of future infectious disease outbreaks. We will conduct an arms-length evaluation of the behavioural science platform and its perceived value and impact for our knowledge user partners.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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