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Effect of prosocial public health messages for population behaviour change in relation to respiratory infections: a systematic review protocol

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Grimani, Aikaterini  ORCID logo
Michie, Susan 
Antonopoulou, Vivi 
Kelly, Michael P 


Introduction: The COVID-19 pandemic represents a major societal challenge that requires large-scale behaviour change, widespread collective action and cooperation to reduce viral transmission. Existing literature indicates that several messaging approaches may be effective, including emphasising the benefits to the recipient, aligning with the recipient’s moral values and focusing on protecting others. Current research suggests that prosocial public health messages that highlight behaviours linked to societal benefits (eg, protecting ‘each other’), rather than focusing on behaviours that protect oneself (eg, protecting ‘yourself’), may be a more effective method for communicating strategies related to infectious disease. To investigate this we will conduct a systematic review that will identify what messages and behaviour change techniques have the potential to optimise the effect on population behaviour in relation to reducing transmission of respiratory infections. Methods and analysis: A systematic literature search of published and unpublished studies (including grey literature) in electronic databases will be conducted to identify those that meet our inclusion criteria. The search will be run in four electronic databases: MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO and Scopus. We will also conduct supplementary searches in databases of ‘grey’ literature such as PsycEXTRA, Social Science Research Network and OSF PREPRINTS, and use the Google Scholar search engine. A systematic approach to searching, screening, reviewing and data extraction will be applied based on Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses. Titles, abstracts and full texts for eligibility will be examined independently by researchers. The quality of the included studies will be assessed using the Cochrane Risk of Bias Tool and the Risk of Bias in Non-randomized Studies-of Interventions tool. Disagreements will be resolved by a consensus procedure. Ethics and dissemination: This protocol has been registered with PROSPERO. No ethical approval is required, as there will be no collection of primary data. The synthesised findings will be disseminated through peer-reviewed publication. PROSPERO registration number: CRD42020198874.



Communication, 1506, 2474, 1684, COVID-19, respiratory infections, public health

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BMJ Publishing Group
National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) (PR-PRU-1217-20501)