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2022 Research Highlights

2022 Research Highlights

Klein Buendel celebrated its 20th Anniversary in 2022! Our scientists and staff continued to pursue rigorous behavioral science research with numerous national and international collaborators. Our creative team designed and engineered multiple web-based programs to positively impact the health and safety of people’s everyday lives.

In 2022, we launched four new prime research projects and started two new subaward collaborations with Emory University and Harvard University. We published (or e-published ahead of print) ten research papers in peer-reviewed journals and presented research analyses and outcomes at eight regional, national or international conferences.

In February, a targeted version of our WayToServe responsible alcohol server training program was launched for the state of California by our licensee, Wedge Communications. WayToServe is now sold in Colorado, California, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington.

In September, we welcomed a new Scientist, Dr. Kayla Nuss, to Klein Buendel. Dr. Nuss’ research interests center on motivation for physical activity, how wearable technology supports or thwarts motivation in various populations, and how to optimize wearable technology to support the development and maintenance of engagement in physical activity. Dr. Nuss graduated with a Ph.D. in Bioenergetics from Colorado State University in 2021.

In October, Dr. David Buller, Director of Research, participated in a discussion on responsible vendor practices for alcohol and cannabis sponsored by the New Jersey Prevention Network.  

In December, Dr. Barbara Walkosz, Senior Scientist, gave a presentation for NATO and the Center for Media Literacy. The webinar was about the pandemic, the dangers of misinformation, health communication, and media literacy.

Prime Projects Launched in 2022

“Computer-based Learning to Enhance ADRD Care in Prison: Just Care for Dementia.” Phase I STTR grant to Klein Buendel from the National Institute on Aging (AG078103; Dr. Susan Loeb from Penn State University, Principal Investigator).

“Translation of an In-Person Brief, Bystander Bullying Intervention (STAC) into a Technology-Based Program.” Phase II STTR grant to Klein Buendel from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (MD014943; Dr. Aida Midgett from Boise State University, Principal Investigator).

“#4Corners 4Health: A Social Media Cancer Prevention Program for Rural emerging Adults.” R01 grant to Klein Buendel from the National Cancer Institute (CA268037; Dr. David Buller from Klein Buendel and Dr. Andrew Sussman from the University of New Mexico, Multiple Principal Investigators).

“An Interactive Education Program to Reduce High Risk Behavior in Adolescents.” Fast Track STTR grant to Klein Buendel from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HD110333; Dr. Christopher Houck from Lifespan Health Systems and Rhode Island Hospital, Principal Investigator).

For these new prime projects and two new subaward projects, we are collaborating with primary investigators from the following universities and organizations:

  • Boise State University
  • Colorado State University
  • Emory University
  • Georgetown University
  • Harvard University
  • Penn State University
  • Rhode Island Hospital/Lifespan Health Systems
  • University of Arizona
  • University of Colorado
  • University of New Mexico
  • University of Oregon
  • University of Utah

2022 Publications*

Buller DB, Pagoto S, Henry KL, Baker K, Walkosz BJ, Hillhouse J, Berteletti J, Bibeau J, Kinsey A. Persisting effects of a social media campaign to prevent indoor tanning: a randomized trial. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2022; 31(4):885-892.

Wallace GT, Buller DB, Pagoto S, Berteletti J, Baker KE, Mathis S, Henry KL. Nonmedical prescription drug use among female adolescents: the relative influence of maternal factors, social norms, and perceptions of risk and availability. Drugs (Abingdon, England). 2022. Published online ahead of print. doi: 10.1080/09687637.2022.2028727

Myers VH, Loeb S, Kitt-Lewis E, Jerrod T. Large-scale evaluation of a computer-based learning program to increase prison staff knowledge on geriatric and end-of-life care. Int J Prison Health. 2022. Published online ahead of print. doi: 10.1108/IJPH-08-2021-0078.

Greene MM, Schoeny ME, Berteletti J, Keim SA, Neel ML, Patra K, Smokse S, Breitenstein S. ezPreemie study protocol: a randomized controlled factorial trial testing web-based parent training and coaching with parents of children born very preterm. BMJ Open. 2022;12: e063706. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2022-063706.

Midgett A, Doumas DM, Buller MK. Posttraining outcomes, acceptability, and technology-based delivery of the STAC Bystander Bullying Intervention teacher module: mixed methods study. JMIR Form Res. 2022 Aug;6(8):e40022. doi: 10.2196/40022.

Buller DB, Pagoto S, Henry KL, Baker K, Walkosz BJ, Hillhouse J, Berteletti J, Bibeau J. Effects of engagement with a social media campaign for mothers to prevent indoor tanning by teens in a randomized trial. J Health Commun. 2022 Jun 3;27(6):394-406.

Buller D, Walkosz B, Henry K, Woodall WG, Pagoto S, Berteletti J, Kinsey A, DiVito J, Baker K, Hillhouse J. Promoting social distancing and COVID-19 vaccine intentions to mothers: randomized comparison of information sources in social media messages. JMIR Infodemiol. 2022 Jul-Dec;2(2):e36210. doi: 10.2196/36210.

Dobbinson SJ, Buller DB, Chamberlain JA, Simmons J, Buller MK. Solar UV measured under built-shade in public parks: findings from a randomized trial in Denver and Melbourne. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Aug 25:19(17):10583. doi: 10.3390/ijerph191710583.

Buller DB, Pagoto S, Walkosz BJ, Woodall WG, Berteletti J, Kinsey A, Henry K, DiVito J. The process of responding to COVID-19 misinformation in a social media feed. J Public Health Manag Pract. 2022. Published online ahead of print. doi: 10.1097/PHH.0000000000001679.

Houck C, Modrowski CA, Hadley W, Barker D, Myers V, Bala K, Wickham B, Jerrod T. A pilot study of a tablet-based emotion regulation intervention for early adolescents. J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2022 Oct/Nov;43(8):e505-e514(10). doi: 10.1097/DBP.0000000000001094.

*KB investigators and staff (current or at the time of the project) are indicated in bold type

2022 Conference Presentations

Research analyses and outcomes were presented and disseminated by KB scientists, staff, and their collaborators at the following national and international conferences in 2022:

  • 34th Annual Scientific Sessions of the Eastern Nursing Research Society (March/April)
  • 43rd Annual Meeting & Scientific Sessions of the Society of Behavioral Medicine (April)
  • 72nd Annual Conference of the International Communication Association (May)
  • 47th Annual Meeting of the Kettil Bruun Society for Social and Epidemiological Research on Alcohol (May/June)
  • 45th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism (June)
  • National Association of Media Literacy Education Conference (July)
  • State of the Science Congress on Nursing Research (September)
  • Mountain West CTR-IN Annual Meeting (November)
Addressing COVID-19 Misinformation

Addressing COVID-19 Misinformation

Misinformation online can confuse consumers and influence people to dismiss vital public health advice. Health Chat team members from Klein Buendel, the University of Connecticut, and Colorado State University have published analyses of misinformation from a social media study in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice. The purpose of the study was to examine how an epidemiological procedure for monitoring, diagnosing, and responding quickly to misinformation among members of a Facebook group may have affected debate and dropout among group members.

Facebook group participants were 303 mothers of adolescent daughters. The Facebook group was administered by a community manager. The social media feed varied the source of information in posts on four topics: social distancing, COVID-19 vaccines, digital and media literacy, and family communication about COVID-19. Mothers received one social media post each weekday in three randomly assigned Facebook private groups, covering all four topics plus one additional post on a positive non-pandemic topic to promote broad engagement. Posts in the three groups had the same messages but differed by links to information from government agencies, near-peer parents, or news media sources in the post.

The community manager identified misinformation in mothers’ comments. Misinformation was defined as COVID-19 information in opposition to recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, and/or World Health Organization. Misinformation took several forms. In some comments, mothers directly presented false information or expressed their own negative opinions or opposition toward COVID-19 prevention. In other comments, mothers presented misinformation indirectly.

Research methods and analyses are detailed in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice paper. Most misinformation comments were in response to posts about vaccination, followed by non-pharmaceutical interventions, digital and media literacy, and family communication. The responsive epidemiological protocol exposed the mothers to credible information and appeared to prevent debate and dropout of Facebook group members.

This research was funded by a grant and supplement from the National Cancer Institute (CA192652). Dr. David Buller from Klein Buendel and Dr. Sherry Pagoto from the University of Connecticut were the project’s Multiple Principal Investigators. Additional authors on this publication include Joseph Divito from the University of Connecticut; Dr. Kim Henry from Colorado State University; and Dr. Barbara Walkosz, Dr. Gill Woodall, Julia Berteletti, and Alishia Kinsey from Klein Buendel.

STAC Parent Module Pilot Study

STAC Parent Module Pilot Study

Klein Buendel collaborator, Dr. Aida Midgett from Boise State University, presented formative research findings from her CTR-IN Pilot Grant at the Mountain West CTR-IN Annual Meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada, November 17-18, 2022. Mountain West CTR-IN connects research investigators to mentors, collaborators, and funding opportunities to improve the health and lives of people in mountain west communities, including through research projects funded by the National Institutes of Health. Ms. Mary Buller, President of Klein Buendel, is Dr. Aida’s mentor for the CTR-IN Pilot Grant.

Dr. Midgett presented on the “Development, Acceptability, and Short-Term Outcomes of a Parent Module for Brief, Bullying Bystander Intervention for Middle School Students in Rural, Low-Income Communities.” Her co-author was Dr. Diana Doumas from Boise State University. The project statistician was Ms. Laura Bond from Boise State University. The pilot study used a mixed-methods design to develop a 30-minute pre-recorded Parent Module as a companion training to a brief bullying prevention program for middle schools, called STAC. The study assessed the need, feasibility, acceptability, delivery format preference and immediate outcomes (e.g., knowledge, attitudes, self-efficacy, and behavioral intentions) of the Parent Module.

As background, the STAC bystander intervention is a 75-minute training that includes didactic and experiential components. It teaches middle school students to act as “defenders” on behalf of targets of bullying through utilizing four intervention strategies: (1) “Stealing the Show” – using humor or distraction to interrupt a bullying situation and remove the attention away from the target; (2) “Turning it Over” – identifying a trusted adult at school, reporting, and asking for help during a bullying incident; (3) “Accompanying Others” – befriending and/or providing support to a peer who was a target of bullying; and (4) “Coaching Compassion” – gently confronting the perpetrator and increasing empathy for the target.

Dr. Midgett reported that preliminary data with 23 parents in the pilot study demonstrated acceptability, relevance, and need and increases in immediate post-training outcomes including knowledge, confidence, self-efficacy, responsibility, and anti-bullying attitudes, as well as parents’ behavioral intentions to support their adolescents to utilize the STAC strategies.

Another aim of Dr. Midgett’s CTR-IN pilot grant is to provide data to support a STTR Fast Track proposal to develop and evaluate a web-based version of the Parent Module as a STAC companion training. The proposal will be submitted through Klein Buendel and the research plan will include a multi-site randomized trial in rural schools. Klein Buendel’s Creative Team will program the web-based Parent Module.

iTRAC Pilot Study

iTRAC Pilot Study

A research team led by Dr. Christopher Houck from Lifespan and the Rhode Island Hospital has published a paper in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics on the feasibility and acceptability of an initial digital iTRAC (Talking About Risk and Adolescent Choices) intervention. Collaborators included colleagues from the Rhode Island Hospital, the University of Oregon, Brown University, Penn State University, and Klein Buendel. iTRAC is a tablet-based intervention to promote emotion regulation skills among middle schoolers as a strategy for reducing risky behavior.

For the pilot study, adolescents aged 12–14 years were recruited from three urban schools for advisory groups (n=15), acceptability testing (n=11), and pilot testing (n=85). Youth advisory boards and expert panels tailored content, resulting in an animated intervention of instructional videos, games, and activities designed to teach emotion regulation strategies to young adolescents. Eighty-five adolescents were randomized to the 4-module digital iTRAC intervention or a wait-list control group. Adolescents and one parent completed baseline and 3-month follow-up questionnaires examining emotion regulation attitudes and behaviors. The adolescent participants also completed behavioral tasks related to distress tolerance.

Eighty-eight percent of those randomized to iTRAC completed all modules. Moderate effect sizes were found from baseline to follow-up on adolescents’ beliefs in the controllability of emotions, awareness of emotions, self-efficacy for managing emotions, perceived access to emotion regulation strategies, and use of emotion regulation strategies. Parent measures of adolescent regulation showed mixed results.

A tablet-based intervention to enhance emotion skills for youth in early adolescence was deemed feasible and demonstrated promising indicators of impact on emotional competence. Increasing adolescents’ awareness of and access to emotion regulation strategies may reduce decisions driven by transient emotions, which in turn may reduce engagement in risky behavior and resultant negative health outcomes. The authors conclude that the brief iTRAC intervention may be used to increase emotional competency among middle schoolers.

Dr. Valerie Myers and Ms. Tiffany Jerrod, both formerly from Klein Buendel, were co-authors on this publication. Research on the full production and evaluation of iTRAC is continuing with an STTR Fast Track grant to Klein Buendel from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (Dr. Christopher Houck, Principal Investigator from Lifespan; HD110333). Collaborators on the current study include Dr. Wendy Hadley from the University of Oregon; Dr. David Barker from Rhode Island Hospital; and Ms. Julia Berteletti from Klein Buendel. The iTRAC modules will be programmed by Klein Buendel’s Creative Team.  

Welcome Dr. Kayla Nuss!

Welcome Dr. Kayla Nuss!

Dr. Kayla Nuss

Kayla Nuss, Ph.D., is Klein Buendel’s newest Scientist and Principal Investigator. Dr. Nuss comes to Klein Buendel from a post-doctoral fellowship with the Digital Health Lab at the University of Victoria in Canada, where she analyzed de-identified data for a comprehensive digital diabetes intervention program in India. 

In 2021, Dr. Nuss earned her Ph.D. in Bioenergetics from Colorado State University (CSU). Her dissertation was titled “Wearable Fitness Trackers in Physical Activity Research: Accuracy and Effects on Motivation and Engagement.” She also has two Master’s Degrees: one in Health and Exercise Science from CSU and a second in Student Development in Post-Secondary Education from the University of Iowa. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Spanish from Cornell College in Iowa. And she graduated from our local Golden High School!

Dr. Nuss’ research interests center on motivation for physical activity, how wearable technology supports or thwarts motivation in various populations, and how to optimize wearable technology to support the development and maintenance of engagement in physical activity.

At Klein Buendel, she is currently collaborating with Dr. Robert Newton from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana, Dr. Derek Griffith from Georgetown University, and Dr. David Buller from Klein Buendel on a research study to address physical activity maintenance in African American men with smartphone technology (MD014947; Dr. Robert Newton and Dr. Kayla Nuss, Multiple Principal Investigators).

Dr. Nuss is also a Co-Investigator on a collaborative team of highly-experienced cancer prevention and control investigators from the Four Corners Cancer Centers Collaborative (University of Arizona, University of Colorado, University of New Mexico, and University of Utah), Colorado State University, and Klein Buendel (CA268037; Dr. David Buller and Dr. Andrew Sussman from the University of New Mexico, Multiple Principal Investigators). This team is launching a 5-year research study focusing on decreasing cancer risk factors among emerging adults (ages 18-26) living in rural counties in the “Four Corners” states (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah) using a social media campaign. Dr. Nuss will lend her expertise in the area of motivation for physical activity.

iTRAC Fast Track Project

iTRAC Fast Track Project

A collaborative research team from the University of Oregon, Rhode Island Hospital and its parent organization Lifespan Health Systems, and Klein Buendel has launched a new research project to develop and evaluate the impact of an emotion regulation program for adolescents. iTRAC will be a web-based program for “Talking about Risk and Adolescent Choices” to prevent risky sexual behavior and negative sexual health outcomes through emotion regulation strategies. The original TRAC program was developed and evaluated in multiple previous studies (MH078750, NR011906, and HD089979) by Dr. Christopher Houck from Lifespan and his team. 

In the new study, the original TRAC will be enhanced for emotion regulation, programmed as a web-based app (iTRAC) and assessed for acceptability by adolescents ages 12 to 14. The investigators will then conduct a randomized controlled trial examining the efficacy of the completed iTRAC intervention relative to a waitlist control among 120 adolescents. The study will examine the efficacy of iTRAC relative to a waitlist control in enhancing theoretically important emotional competencies, such as emotion regulation, emotion recognition, and distress tolerance that mediate risk as measured by self-report, performance measures, and parent report. 

The investigators hypothesize that: (1) iTRAC will receive positive adolescent ratings during acceptability testing for ease of use, enjoyment, and usefulness of content; (2) participants in iTRAC will report greater self-efficacy for sexual risk prevention skills over 6-month follow-up than comparison participants; and (3) youth in iTRAC will exhibit improved emotional competencies relative to the comparison group. 

The iTRAC project is funded by an STTR Fast Track grant to Klein Buendel from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (Dr. Christopher Houck, Principal Investigator from Lifespan; HD110333). Collaborators include Dr. Wendy Hadley from the University of Oregon; Dr. David Barker from Rhode Island Hospital; and Ms. Julia Berteletti from Klein Buendel. The iTRAC modules will be programmed by Klein Buendel’s Creative Team.  

Collaborator Spotlight:
Dr. Alexandra Morshed

Collaborator Spotlight:
Dr. Alexandra Morshed

Alexandra Morshed, Ph.D., is a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Behavioral, Social and Health Education Services at Emory University. She is also a Co-Investigator with the Emory Prevention Research Center. Dr. Morshed received her Master of Science degree from Wageningen University in the Netherlands and her Ph.D. from Washington University in St. Louis.

Dr. Alexandra Morshed

Dr. Morshed is an implementation scientist with more than ten years of experience in public health research and practice. Her primary areas of interest include implementing interventions in vulnerable populations, chronic disease prevention, public health nutrition, and capacity building and knowledge expansion in dissemination and implementation science.

Dr. Morshed is currently collaborating with Dr. David Buller from Klein Buendel on a research study titled “Go Sun Smart at Work: A Sun Safety Program for Underserved Outdoor Workers” (Dr. Morshed and Dr. Buller, Multiple Principal Investigators). This CDC-funded study builds upon Klein Buendel’s evidence-based comprehensive occupational skin cancer prevention intervention, Go Sun Smart at Work, and aims to reduce UV exposure and prevent skin cancer among underserved outdoor workers in Georgia. Hispanic and African American adults have been overlooked in skin cancer prevention efforts, due to their lower incidence of skin cancer. However, among Hispanic and African Americans, skin cancer is diagnosed at more advanced stages, leading to higher mortality rates than non-Hispanic whites. The Emory University study aims to develop an intervention and implementation strategies to increase policies and practices to support sun safety among outdoor workers in Georgia.

UV Measured under Built Shade in Public Parks

UV Measured under Built Shade in Public Parks

Reducing exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV) is crucial for preventing UV-induced diseases of the skin and eyes. Shade may offer significant protection from UV.

A research team from Klein Buendel and Cancer Council Victoria and LaTrobe University in Australia have published a paper on UV measurements under shade structure built in public parks in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. The paper expands empirical research to quantify the UV protection offered from built shade to guide disease prevention practices and confidence in investment in shade.

Specifically, the research team quantified UV levels under built shade relative to unshaded passive recreation areas (PRAs) over summer months in parks in two cities (Denver, Colorado, USA and Melbourne, Victoria, Australia). In a randomized controlled trial, 1,144 UV measurements were recorded at the center and periphery of PRAs in a total sample of 144 public parks as part of pretest and posttest measures of use of the PRAs by park visitors. UV measurements were recorded for three recruitment waves per city during 2010 to 2014. Following pretest, 36 of the PRAs received built shade structures.

Regression analyses modelled pre-post change in UV (Standard Erythemal Dose (SED) per 30 min) at PRAs; and environmental predictors. Mean UV at the center of built shade PRAs decreased from pretest to posttest, adjusting for the covariates of ambient SED, solar elevation, and cloud cover. Clouds decreased and solar elevation increased UV levels under shade. No significant differences in UV by design of the shade structure occurred. A substantial reduction in UV exposure can be achieved using built shade with shade cloth designs, offering considerable protection for shade users. Supplementary sun protection  is recommended for extended periods of shade use during clear sky days. This could include things like brimmed hats, long sleeves, sunglasses, and sunscreen.

This research was supported by a grant from the National Cancer Institute (CA140367; Dr. David Buller, PI). Collaborators on this publication also include Dr. Suzanne Dobbinson and Dr. James Chamberlain from Cancer Council Victoria; Jody Simmons from LaTrobe University; and Mary Buller from Klein Buendel.

#4Corners4Health

#4Corners4Health

A collaborative team of highly-experienced cancer prevention and control investigators from the Four Corners Cancer Centers Collaborative (University of Arizona, University of Colorado, University of New Mexico, and University of Utah), Colorado State University, and Klein Buendel is launching a research study that focuses on decreasing cancer risk factors among emerging adults (ages 18-26) living in rural counties in the “Four Corners” states (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah) using a social media campaign. Cancer risks related to infrequent physical activity, unhealthy diet, nicotine product use, alcohol intake, ultraviolet radiation exposure and lack of HPV vaccination are prevalent among emerging adults and contribute to cancer later in life.

The project will test a theory-based, multi-risk factor social media approach to cancer prevention through the use of Facebook and its private group function. Social media can improve information dissemination, credibility, and relevance, be used to detect and respond to emerging trends, and engage users with user-generated content that personalizes information. It offers a superior intervention for emerging adults compared to health care, schools, and workplaces which can be challenging to implement in low-resourced rural communities and will not reach many emerging adults who have low preventive health care utilization, school enrollment, and/or employment.


#4Corners4Health Specific Aims

  • Develop a social media intervention for diverse emerging adults in rural communities via a community-engaged process that combines expert advice, user-generated content, and online instruction about behavioral cancer risks, cancer misinformation, counter marketing, digital and media literacy, and family communication.
  • Evaluate the effect of a theory-based social media intervention on moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA), health eating patterns, nicotine product use, alcohol intake, sunburn prevalence, and HPV vaccination with the diverse (ethnically/ socioeconomically) population of emerging adults aged 18-26 in rural counties in the Four Corner states recruited from Qualtrics’ survey panel and enrolled in a pragmatic randomized trial using a stepped-wedge design in which individual emerging adults will be randomized to one of four cohorts and receive social media feed for varying durations in separate Facebook private groups.
  • Test if improvements in merging adults cancer risk knowledge and beliefs, digital and media literacy skills, accurate cancer prevention information, and family communication mediate impact of the social media campaign.
  • Explore whether the impact of the social media campaign differs according to a) level of emerging adults engagement with campaign, b) cancer risk factors, and c) biological sex of the participants.

The investigators hypothesize that (1) emerging adults will increase MVPA and healthy eating pattern, reduce nicotine product and alcohol use, and sunburns, and increase HPV vaccine uptake from pre to post when receiving social media campaign, and (2) positive impact of the social media campaign on cancer risk factors among emerging adults will be mediated by improved cancer risk knowledge and beliefs (self-response efficacy; norms; social support; vaccine antecedents), digital and media literacy skills, misinformation, and family communication.

This research will be led by Dr. David Buller from Klein Buendel and Dr. Andrew Sussman from the University of New Mexico (Multiple Principal Investigators). It is being funded by a 5-year R01 grant from the National Cancer Institute (CA268037). Key collaborators include Dr. Kimberly Henry from Colorado State University; Dr. Cindy Blair from the University of New Mexico; Dr. Judith Gordon, Dr. Cynthia Thomson, and Dr. Jennifer Hatcher from the University of Arizona; Dr. Evelinn Borrayo and Dr. Douglas Taren from the University of Colorado; Dr. Deanna Kepka, Dr. Echo Warner, and Dr. David Wetter from the University of Utah; and Dr. Gill Woodall, Dr. Barbara Walkosz, Dr. Kayla Nuss, and Ms. Julia Berteletti from Klein Buendel.

Promoting Social Distancing and COVID-19 Vaccination in a Social Media Feed for Mothers

Promoting Social Distancing and COVID-19 Vaccination in a Social Media Feed for Mothers

The Health Chat team from Klein Buendel, the University of Connecticut, Colorado State University, and East Tennessee State University has published findings from a health communication study in the journal JMIR Infodemiology. The purpose of the study was to examine how the source of health information shared via a Facebook social media feed might impact behavioral intentions related to practicing social distancing or accepting COVID-19 vaccination. The Facebook group participants were mothers of adolescent daughters. The social media feed varied the source of information in posts on four topics: social distancing, COVID-19 vaccines, digital and media literacy, and family communication about COVID-19. The information sources were government agencies, near-peer parents, and news media.

In summary, 303 mothers with adolescent daughters from a previous study testing a social media campaign on indoor tanning were recruited in January 2021 and enrolled in a randomized single-factor design (government agencies vs. near-peer parents vs. news media) evaluating the 9-week Facebook feed with four assessments at baseline and 3-week, 6-week, and 9-week follow-ups. Mothers received one social media post each day (Monday-Friday) in three randomly assigned Facebook private groups, covering all four topics plus one additional post on a positive non-pandemic topic to promote engagement. Posts in the three groups had the same messages but differed by links to information from government agencies, near-peer parents, or news media in the post. Views, reactions, and comments related to each post were counted to measure engagement with the messages. Mothers reported on social distancing and vaccine intentions for themselves and their daughters at the four assessment points.

Research methods and analyses are detailed in the JMIR Infodemiology paper. Nearly all mothers (98%) remained in the Facebook private groups throughout the 9-week trial period, and assessment completion rates were high. Analysis showed that social distancing behavior by mothers and daughters decreased over time but vaccine intentions increased. Decrease in social distancing by daughters was greater in the near-peer source group and lesser in the government agency group. The higher perceived credibility of the assigned information source increased social distancing and vaccine intentions. Mothers’ intentions to vaccinate themselves may have increased when they considered the near-peer source to be not credible. According to the authors, decreasing case counts, relaxation of government restrictions, and vaccine distribution during the study may explain the decreased social distancing and increased vaccine intentions.

This research was funded by a grant and supplement from the National Cancer Institute (CA192652). Dr. David Buller from Klein Buendel and Dr. Sherry Pagoto from the University of Connecticut were the project’s Multiple Principal Investigators. Additional authors on this publication include Joseph Divito from the University of Connecticut; Dr. Kim Henry from Colorado State University; Dr. Katie Baker and Dr. Joel Hillhouse from East Tennessee State University; and Dr. Barbara Walkosz, Dr. Gill Woodall, Julia Berteletti, and Alishia Kinsey from Klein Buendel.