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Evaluating the effect of infographics on public recall, sentiment and willingness to use face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic: a randomised internet-based questionnaire study

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Title: Evaluating the effect of infographics on public recall, sentiment and willingness to use face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic: a randomised internet-based questionnaire study
Authors: Egan, M
Acharya, A
Sounderajah, V
Xu, Y
Mottershaw, A
Phillips, R
Ashrafian, H
Darzi, A
Item Type: Journal Article
Abstract: Background The use of face masks remains contentious, with international variation in practice. Their prevalence in the UK, is likely to increase due to new legislation. Clear information regarding the appropriate use of masks is needed, to ensure compliance with policies to reduce transmission of COVID-19. We aimed to assess the impact of visual representations of guidance, or infographics, upon the knowledge of appropriate face mask usage in a representative UK cohort. Methods Adult patients were recruited to this randomised internet-based questionnaire study during the 12–14 May 2020 from across the UK. Respondents viewed one of five public health stimuli regarding the use of face masks, or no stimulus. The groups accessed aids by the European Centre for Disease Control (EUCDC), World Health Organisation (WHO), Singaporean Ministry of Health (SMOH), text from the UK government (UK Gov), or an infographic designed by the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT). The primary outcome was to evaluate the effect of each infographic upon participants’ recall of face mask technique, sentiments and willingness to wear a face covering. Secondary outcomes included the effect of symptomology and socio-demographic factors. Results 4099 respondents were randomised (1009 control, 628 EUCDC, 526 WHO, 639 SMOH, 661 UKGOV and 606 BIT). Stimuli from the WHO, SMOH and BIT demonstrated significantly higher average recall scores compared to the controls (7.40 v. 7.38 v. 7.34 v. 6.97, P < 0.001). BIT’s stimulus led to the highest confidence about mask-wearing (87%). Only 48.2% of the cohort felt stimuli reduced anxiety about COVID-19. However, willingness to use a mask was high, (range 84 to 88%). Conclusions To ensure the appropriate use of masks, as mandated by UK law, guidance must provide sufficient information, yet remain understandable. Infographics can aid the recall of correct mask techniques by highlighting salient steps and reducing cognitive burden. They have also demonstrated greater trustworthiness than text-only guidance. The effect of infographics upon COVID-19-related anxiety was poor, and they should be further developed to address this sentiment. A willingness to wear face masks has, however, been demonstrated.
Issue Date: 17-Feb-2021
Date of Acceptance: 28-Jan-2021
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10044/1/86155
DOI: 10.1186/s12889-021-10356-0
ISSN: 1471-2458
Publisher: BioMed Central
Journal / Book Title: BMC Public Health
Volume: 21
Sponsor/Funder: National Institute of Health Research
Keywords: 1117 Public Health and Health Services
Public Health
Publication Status: Published
Online Publication Date: 2021-02-17
Appears in Collections:Department of Surgery and Cancer
Faculty of Medicine
Institute of Global Health Innovation
Imperial College London COVID-19



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