The Infectious Disease Research Network held a fascinating conference on Friday 11th June entitled “Understanding behavioural responses to infectious disease outbreaks”. The programme was still available last time I looked at: www.idrn.org/events/upcoming/behavioural.php. This seemed the ideal opportunity to see if others felt there were opportunities to explore the internet technologies in getting people engaged in discussions around public health issues – something that this whole site is aiming to do.
Communicating an issue is one thing; getting people to change their behaviour is the difficult bit. But as this web site attests, if we are to get more into the realms of prevention in relation to infectious diseases and other risks, then somehow individuals have to “get it” and act on whatever the “it” is. So it was interesting to hear from Pauolo Moreira from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) who is Deputy Head of the ECDC Health Communication Unit, which itself is part of the Knowledge and Resource Centre on Health Communication.
Pauolo presented a simple model of behavioural change:
- Beliefs <-> Values
Now he suggested that this ordered list has an interplay in each direction, which obviously begins at perception (so we have the message as in this article). But thereafter the interplay becomes more interesting. Indeed, during the questions, the point was made that a simple model was unlikely yo be enough, with many other factors coming into play including: emotions, habits, skills and the environment. For all that, clearly an interesting and thought provoking start to the day, which allowed one of the audience to discuss a book entitled, “Connected: Amazing Power of Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives” by Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler. I have therefore ordered a copy from Amazon, available at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/000734743X/ref=oss_product
Does this, I wonder, mean that we need more resources with communication teams, with research directed to what affects behaviours? Perhaps like ECDC there should be greater emphasis on public health communication research and development.