ublic’s Health Information Consumption During a Prolonged Pandemic: The Competing Roles of Journalists and Digital Influencers and Their Effects in Combating Message Fatigue

Chiara Valentini, Elanor Colleoni, Yan Jin and Sung In Choi (PhD candidate) (2023, May). “Public’s Health Information Consumption During a Prolonged Pandemic: The Competing Roles of Journalists and Digital Influencers and Their Effects in Combating Message Fatigue.” Journalism Division, International Communication Association (ICA) Annual Conference, Toronto, Canada.

Abstract: This study empirically investigates COVID-19 information consumption behaviors of individuals who show pandemic fatigue indications. Particularly, this study examines the relation between the type of information source—journalist versus digital influencer—, how people feel about the pandemic, how they cognitively cope with the information they receive, and in their overall message fatigue. Data collection took place in spring 2022 through a market research company on a representative sample of the population in Australia, Finland, Italy, Sweden, South Korea, and the United States of America. The sample comprises over 3000 respondents stratified by age, gender, education, and house income. Results show that consuming more journalists’ information helps people reduce cognitive coping and subsequent message fatigue, if individuals think those messages are highly credible. On the other hand, consuming more digital influencers’ information increases cognitive coping behavior and message fatigue. This study contributes to expand our understanding of the role of journalists vis-à-vis that of digital influencers during a global pandemic.

Promoting Survivor Safety in Immigrant Communities: Online Simulation Training for Korean American Faith Leaders

Choi, J (UGA Social Work)., Orpinas, Pamela (UGA Public Health)., Han, Jeong-Yeob, Cho, S., Li, T., & Kim, C. (2022). “Promoting Survivor Safety in Immigrant Communities: Online Simulation Training for Korean American Faith Leaders,” Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 38(3-4).

Abstract: This study examined the efficacy of a short virtual case simulation for Korean American (KA) faith leaders, “Religious Leaders for Healthy Families.” The goal of the program is to increase knowledge about intimate partner violence (IPV) and healthy intimate partner relationships, enhance self-efficacy in IPV prevention and intervention, strengthen attitudes that support their roles on IPV prevention and intervention, increase positive outcome expectations of their actions, and increase behavioral intentions and behaviors on IPV prevention and intervention. KA faith leaders from two large metropolitan areas with a high concentration of KA immigrants were invited to participate in the study (N=102). Participants completed three online assessments: baseline, a 3-month, and a 6-month follow-up. After the baseline assessment, participants were randomized to either intervention (n = 53) or control (n = 49). The intervention consisted of four online simulation modules, each taking approximately 15-20 min to complete. At the 6-month follow-up, faith leaders in the intervention group significantly increased their knowledge and self-efficacy in IPV prevention and intervention compared to the control group. Mean scores for attitudes against IPV and prevention behaviors increased from baseline to the 6-month follow-up for the intervention group more than the control group, but the differences were not statistically significant. “Religious Leaders for Healthy Families” has the potential to reduce disparities in accessing resources and services for immigrant survivors of IPV. With its ease of use, this short, free online intervention has a high potential for uptake among faith leaders. Results are promising, but the COVID-19 pandemic negatively affected the study, with participants having scarce opportunities to practice the skills learned from the intervention. A larger follow-up study that combines “Religious Leaders for Healthy Families” with a community-wide intervention that targets all community members is warranted to reach more faith leaders and community members.

State of Vaccine Hesitancy in the United States

Glen J. Nowak and Michael A. Cacciatore, “State of Vaccine Hesitancy in the United States,” forthcoming, in an upcoming issue of Pediatric Clinics of North America, a journal that provides the latest clinical information on health issues for children and adolescents. Each bimonthly issue (February, April, June, August, October, and December) focuses on a single topic and is presented under the direction of an experienced editor.

Abstract:  The term “vaccine hesitancy” has achieved great prominence in recent years, but the current state of pediatric vaccine hesitancy among parents in the United States is unknown. Some findings from recent national surveys of parent compliance and intentions suggest that the current state of childhood and adolescent vaccine hesitancy in the United States is relatively stable and mostly positive. Other national survey findings, in concert with information from other sources, suggest a more worrisome picture of the state of parent vaccine hesitancy in the U.S. Three years into a COVID-19 pandemic which has featured multiple new vaccines, disruptions in the administration of routinely recommended childhood and adolescent vaccines, and debates about COVID-19 vaccination recommendations for children, assessments of the state of vaccine hesitancy in the U.S. are especially needed to sustain or achieve needed pediatric immunization uptake. The assessment here does this by 1) overviewing concepts and considerations that help identify evidence or indications of vaccine hesitancy among parents and 2) using the overview as the foundation for surfacing insights into the current state of parent vaccine hesitancy in the U.S. This assessment illustrates the overall state of vaccine hesitancy among parents in the U.S. is not easy to quantify or characterize, including because systematic and significant investments in measuring and monitoring do not exist. Also notable, investments in research that includes sufficient numbers of racial/ethnic groups reflective of the diversity of U.S. parents and caregivers is lacking.

Effects of Individuals’ Cultural Orientations and Trust in Government Health Communication Sources on Behavioral Intentions During a Pandemic: A Cross-Country Study

Sung In Choi (PhD candidate), Sungsu Kim (PhD alum), Yan Jin, Chiara Valentini, Mark Badham, Elanor Colleoni, and Stefania Romenti (In press). “Effects of Individuals’ Cultural Orientations and Trust in Government Health Communication Sources on Behavioral Intentions During a Pandemic: A Cross-Country Study.” Health Communication.

Abstract: Public health messages disseminated by trusted government authorities are likely to have more influence over individuals’ intentions and behaviors. However, individuals worldwide have different levels of trust in government authorities, which leads to varying levels of compliance intentions. Additionally, these trust levels may vary during major public crises, such as pandemics. Based on a COVID-19 pandemic communication survey (N = 3,065) disseminated throughout six countries (Australia, Finland, Italy, South Korea, Sweden, and the United States), this study examined the association among trust in distinct government sources, cultural orientations, and health behavioral intentions. Findings indicated that trust in official health communication sources at four governmental levels (i.e., national government, the head of the national government, the national health authority, and the chief representative of the national health authority) was related to vaccination intentions and other behavioral compliance intentions (i.e., willingness to prevent COVID-19 infection in other ways). Meanwhile, these direct associations were mediated by the cultural orientations of power distance and uncertainty avoidance. Findings also revealed that the direct association of trust in government sources and the indirect relationship through the above cultural orientations varied by country. This study offers insight into the important role of credible sources and individuals’ cultural orientations in the domain of health communication aimed at influencing behavioral intentions.

Factors Influencing Americans’ Preventive Behaviours during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Lessons for Strategic Health and Risk Communicators

Sung In Choi (PhD student), Yan Jin, and Mark Badham. (forthcoming). “Factors Influencing Americans’ Preventive Behaviours during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Lessons for Strategic Health and Risk Communicators.” Strategic Communication in a Global Crisis: National and International Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic (Eds. R. Tench, J. Meng, and A. Moreno-Fernández), Routledge.

Abstract: This chapter examines factors influencing Americans’ preventive behaviours, including their COVID-19 vaccination intentions, in response to the U.S. Government’s strategic communication about COVID-19 guidelines. This chapter draws on the theory of planned behaviour to shed light on three factors that can help strategic health and risk communicators predict future behaviours during a pandemic: attitude toward a recommended vaccine, social norms (i.e., the likelihood that individuals will follow others’ opinions about recommended behaviour), and self-efficacy (i.e., individuals’ confidence in their own ability to follow recommended behaviour). Based on an online survey of American adults in October-November 2020, the study found, first, that a relatively high proportion of Americans were adopting government-recommended behaviours to prevent infection and spread of the virus. Second, Americans who follow the government’s recommended behaviours tend to have higher vaccination intentions. Third, younger Americans are more likely to be influenced by social norms to adopt recommended behaviours. Fourth, younger Americans have higher levels of self-efficacy than older Americans. Finally, Americans with higher education levels tend to have higher self-efficacy to follow recommended actions, thus leading to higher levels of preventive behaviours. These findings have important implications for strategic health and risk communicators, particularly when attempting to persuade the public to follow government health recommendations during a public health crisis.

Integrating Strategy and Dosage: A New Conceptual Formula for Overcoming Unintended Effects in Public Health Crisis Communication (PHCC)

Xuerong Lu (PhD alum) and Yan Jin. (forthcoming). “Integrating Strategy and Dosage: A New Conceptual Formula for Overcoming Unintended Effects in Public Health Crisis Communication (PHCC).” The Handbook of Crisis Communication (2nd edition) (Eds. W. T. Coombs and S. J. Holladay), Wiley-Blackwell.

Abstract: Lu and Jin provide insights into public health crisis communication (PHCC) by reconceptualizing how we think about the concept of dosage. The chapter extends the notion of dosage from the amount of exposure to publics’ engagement over time in a competitive and conflicting media environment. Lu and Jin delineate a new direction in PHCC by formulating the effect of crisis communication strategy and dosage according to a chemical analogy of solution concentration (i.e. strategy) and volume of solution (i.e. dosage). First, this chapter visualizes PHCC as a neutralization process, in which the base solution (i.e., PHCC strategy and dosage) to neutralize the harm caused by the acid solution (i.e., a public health crisis). Second, this chapter further analogizes the PHCC as the base solution consisting of a solute dissolved into a solvent, where the solute is the message strategy (e.g., emotional appeal) and the solvent is the carrier of the message similar to messengers and channels. Lu and Jin define the concept of PHCC dosage as the volume of “base solution,” which will influence the effectiveness of the neutralization (i.e. PHCC). This new conceptual framework, illustrated with recent public health crisis cases, helps explain PHCC (in)effectiveness. Lu and Jin also provide a theoretical foundation for empirical studies that examine and predict how both the strategy and dosage of a crisis response message might exert intended and/or unintended effects among publics confronted with information clutters and desensitized by previous and/or ongoing crisis situations. The chapter explores new possibilities for research and application of PHCC.

Effective Communication Management in a Public Health Crisis: Lessons Learned about COVID-19 Pandemic through the Lens of Health Communication Executives

Taylor Voges (PhD candidate), Yan Jin, LaShonda Eaddy (PhD alum), Shelley Spector. (forthcoming). “Effective Communication Management in a Public Health Crisis: Lessons Learned about COVID-19 Pandemic through the Lens of Health Communication Executives.” Journal of Communication Management.

Abstract: This study aims to provide insights on the COVID-19 pandemic communication from the lessons learned by health communication executives—how they perceived the COVID-19 pandemic and recommend preparing for communication management of future public health crisis. A number of top health communication executives in the United States were interviewed, for their unique perspectives on the COVID-19 pandemic. The contingency theory of strategic conflict management is used for qualitative deductive analysis, rendering several segmentations of key factors that drove organizational communication management decision making during the pandemic: organization characteristics, relationship characteristics, general external climate, external publics, and the issue under question. Health communication executives heavily relied on their past health communication experiences, which led to nuanced understandings of the COVID-19 pandemic. Theoretically, the contingency theory is furthered via an implied theoretical linkage between the construct of general external climate and the construct of external publics. Practically, the health communication executives urged future practitioners to constantly assess risks, hire and use diverse and representative decision-makers; set a communication protocol; and keep the communication in perspective.

National Science Foundation Development Grant

Glen Nowak is a co-Principal Investigator on a $1 million National Science Foundation Development Grant supported under NSF’s Phase 1 funding for projects involving Predictive Intelligence for Pandemic Prevention. This is an 18-month long multi-investigator, multi-institution project interdisciplinary project to design and evaluate new approaches to infectious disease modeling to better forecast how outbreaks and pandemics will evolve or change, including based on beliefs and intentions regarding public health actions and recommendations. The project is led by University of Georgia Regents’ Professor John Drake of the Odum School of Ecology and includes several faculty members from UGA as well as researchers from the University of Michigan and the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. The researchers will follow an approach pioneered to solve complex engineering problems, collaborating on six demonstration projects that are based upon their core expertise. Nowak and Michael Cacciatore will lead a project that involves designing and implementing a Fall 2022 national survey and then working with infectious disease modelers to incorporate key survey findings into mathematical forecasting models.

COVID-19 Vaccination and Public Health Communication Strategies: An In-depth Look at How Demographics, Political Ideology, and News/Information Source Preference Matter

Abstract: Widely accepted public health actions and recommendations, particularly those related to vaccines, are critical to U.S. and global responses to infectious disease pandemics, such as COVID-19. Drawing from nationally published COVID-19 public opinion polls as well as social and behavioral science related to vaccination acceptance, this study used a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults 18 years-old and older, undertaken in November-December 2020, to examine how four key demographic characteristics (sex, age, race/ethnicity, education), political ideology (liberal, moderate, conservative), and news/information source preference (liberal, conservative, balanced) were related to COVID-19 vaccination intentions, COVID-19 risk-benefit perceptions, interest and attention to COVID-19 information, self-reported level of being informed on key COVID-19 items, and trust and use of common COVID-19 information sources. Multiple associations were found, with most having important implications for strategic communication efforts related to COVID-19 vaccination and other preventive health recommendations.