We are now over 900 days into the global pandemic that is COVID-19. Meanwhile, there has been hope for many with the introduction of vaccines and boosters; reintegration into society via hybrid working arrangements; and the resumption of sporting events, concerts, and international travel. A semblance of normal life has returned for most, yet we’re still left questioning what’s to come, what to do next, and what to believe.

Amidst the many challenges (and several success stories) Americans experienced following their government’s original pandemic response, one thing is certain: the shortcomings were compounded by a lack of public data, which led to many health experts and government officials making moves without clear information or guidelines.
Having data collection processes at the onset of COVID-19 was important for a number of reasons. It could have helped people understand the impending impact of COVID-19 more clearly, and also inform a more appropriate response to the planning and allocation of resources for those in need. Even so, it’s evident the U.S. bungled the initial response around combating misinformation about how the disease is spread, social distancing, mask wearing mandates, coronavirus testing and contact tracing, and eventual vaccine hesitancy and booster uptake.

The fact that initial decisions were made without previously established public health data collection systems likely accelerated the rate of disease spread and preventable deaths. However, now that we have collected, monitored and evaluated data over the past two and a half years, we have evidence that large pandemics are more likely than we may have previously considered. Thus, it’s important to recognize that public health decision making and messaging will be further strengthened by the support of data that is detailed and generated in real time for emerging disease outbreaks.

This global health crisis has required large-scale behavior change, which means messaging around health recommendations needs to be nuanced. Effective communication is essential to the success of monitoring and evaluation during and after the implementation of any program. Insights from behavioral science can be used, with the support of public health experts, to help inform strategies around delivery of particular recommendations that will require changes in human behavior.

The following are several behaviorally informed approaches, that take all of the above into account, for consideration when developing new messaging strategies in response to future public health crises.

Read the full article about public health response at ideas42.