Using Behavioral Nudges to Improve Preventive Health Behaviors & Limit COVID-19 Spread

Using behavior change tactics to reduce the spread of COVID‐ 19 in Wisconsin communities

Full Project Name:Using Behavioral Nudges to Improve Preventive Health Behaviors that Limit COVID-19 SpreadPrincipal Investigator:Nicholas Young, PhD, Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine and Center for Advancing Population ScienceCo-Investigator:Sanjah Bhandari, MD, Medicine; Neel Mansukhani, MD, Surgery; Anna Palatnik, MD, OBGYNAward Amount:$144,086
Award Date
Project Duration:6 months

Project Description Narrative:

Public health campaigns to help control the COVID-19 pandemic in Wisconsin have focused on critical prevention behaviors like social distancing and regular hand washing. Unfortunately, increasing infection rates suggest that these initiatives have not been completely effective to date. Hand washing compliance rates are often alarmingly poor, with global estimates as low as 19%. Hand washing has also become more difficult due to reduced availability of proper hygiene materials like hand soap and paper towels at Wisconsin retailers.

This project aims to improve hand hygiene using simple, inexpensive, and powerful behavior change intervention tactics to reduce the chances of COVID‐ 19 spreading to patients at high risk for serious illness or medical complications across Wisconsin communities.

Outcomes & Lessons Learned:

  • Established infrastructure, relational groundwork, and key implementation materials to support current project and additional long-term work, including comprehensive protocols, database collection and management environment, and personnel partnerships
  • Identified high-risk patients across targeted medical specialties to target for project enrollment
  • Provided hand hygiene materials free of charge to those enrolled in project
  • Initiated project, testing use of behavioral nudges to deliberately cue a specific number of hand washings
  • Collected preliminary data suggesting the tested interventions can yield desired effects and began comprehensive data analysis
  • Began work to disseminate project findings to inform clinical recommendations and future work

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