221433 Impacts of H1N1 messages on college students' knowledge, attitudes and information-seeking behavior

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Caroline Foster, MA , School of Journalism and Mass Communications, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
Alexis Koskan, PhD , Health Outcomes & Behavior, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, Tampa, FL
India D. Rose, PhD Candidate, MPH , Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
Jack Karlis, MA , School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
Andrea Tanner, PhD , School of Journalism and Mass Communications, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
BACKGROUND: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Institute of Medicine consider improving the dissemination of timely emergency health information a top research priority. College administrators and health providers, however, often rely on a shot-gun approach when communicating critical public health information on college campuses.

OBJECTIVES: 1) to examine the communication channels (both mediated and unmediated) through which college students receive H1N1 messages and 2) to assess the students' knowledge, behavior and perceptions related to these messages. Study findings are evaluated for the purpose of providing college health administrators with best practices for raising awareness of health risks and disease prevention.

METHODS: Six focus groups held on the campus of a large university in the Southeast allowed researchers to hear from a diverse group of undergraduate students (n=40) about their knowledge, sources and information, attitudes and behaviors relating to H1N1 on campus. Focus group transcripts were sorted according to major themes by the researchers.

RESULTS: Because college students are overloaded with exposures to H1N1 information, they often seek help from opinion leaders, in particular, professors and parents, in assessing the information and determining individual risk. Students felt H1N1 messages were not reflective of reality, were pervasive and were superficial.

CONCLUSIONS: Targeted messages from the university delivered through opinion leaders or judicious use of email or text messaging would be effective and efficient ways to get H1N1 messages to college students. Findings can be used to develop strategies to best communicate critical and timely health information to college populations.

Learning Areas:
Administer health education strategies, interventions and programs
Communication and informatics
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs

Learning Objectives:
Evaluate the nature and frequency of common H1N1 messages to which college students are exposed. Define some common perceptions, attitudes and knowledge among college students about H1N1. Discuss a possible relationship between the H1N1 messages to which college students are commonly exposed and the students' levels of knowledge, attitudes toward and information-seeking about the H1N1 virus. List the media through with a targeted health information campaign to reach college students should be conducted.

Keywords: Communication, College Students

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a doctoral student pursuing a research interest in health and science communications.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.

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