Theoretical Background and research questions/hypothesis: Recent outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases in the U.S. have spurred debates about the necessity and safety of public health initiatives. Some initiatives, such as public water fluoridation and soda taxes, have also met with opposition while others like free school lunches are less controversial. This research seeks to gain an understanding of public health interventions skeptics, who they are and what they believe, in order to inform the development of targeted health communication strategies.
Methods: Porter Novelli conducts a series of national surveys each year to track attitudes and behaviors of the U.S. population. The Spring 2015 ConsumerStyles survey is currently being fielded among over 6,000 adult respondents from GfK’s nationally representative online research panel (KnowledgePanel®). Questions were developed to assess the extent to which respondents support or oppose a variety of public health programs including childhood vaccinations, water fluoridation, soda taxes, and free school lunches. The resulting data will be weighted to match Current Population Survey proportions for gender, age, race/ethnicity, household income, education, household size, region, and whether or not the respondent had internet access prior to joining the panel.
Results: Data will be available for analysis by the end of May 2015. Descriptive analyses will show the extent to which there is overlap between respondents who oppose different types of public heath interventions. We will create two or more target audience profiles of public health skeptics which will include demographics; attitudes about health, health care providers, and the government; media habits and preferred health information sources; and a variety of psychographic information.
Conclusions: The results will allow us to define who public health skeptics are and determine how to reach them. We expect to find two or more different types of skeptics based on whether their disapproval is broad-based or topic-specific, education and income levels, region, religiosity, political affiliation, and their health information seeking behaviors.
Implications for research and/or practice: Insight into the thoughts of public health intervention skeptics can help us develop best practices for communication efforts. We will discuss whether messages should address overall distrust or policy-specific opposition, whether they should focus on individual or community norms, and how they should be disseminated.