As outbreaks of H1N1 continue to strike campuses across North America, our paper “University Students’ Hand Hygiene Practice During a Gastrointestinal Outbreak in Residence: What They Say They Do and What They Actually Do,”, keeps getting a bit of run. And a common discussion topic focuses on strategies that might work to affect hand hygiene practices.
One of the solutions we talk about is tailoring messages to the target audience. This means communicate with them like they talk amongst themselves and use trusted methods to get risk-reduction info out.
Bell and colleagues at Washington State University did this with their raw milk/Abuela project a decade ago. Recent publications out of the UK and Australia have focused on emotion and disgust in message building and even within a target audience, gender is a factor in intervention effectiveness.
These four papers demonstrate that generic, sanitized messages might be a waste of time and resources. A better bang for the public health buck might come from something more compelling and engaging. Or as Doug mentioned to the Nebraskan, "Wash your damn hands," and follow up with the consequences of not. They may or may not actually change their practices, but maybe you got their attention.