Researchers Issue Call to Action to Strengthen Pandemic Behavioral Science

July 13, 2020

Although information about COVID-19 protective behaviors such as handwashing, mask-wearing, and social distancing has been widely disseminated in the United States by federal and local governments, research has shown significant gaps in the public’s understanding and behavior, maybe because of inconsistency and lack of optimal tailoring. A new article in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine led by Columbia research John Allegrante, PhD, argues behavioral science expertise that is central to achieving protective behaviors. 

The researchers say there is an urgent need for accurate data about the public understanding of COVID-19 risk and preferred sources for obtaining information about how to stay safe. Better utilization of digital technology would enable more efficient targeting of at-risk individuals and tailoring of behavioral interventions. And, to drive these changes now and for the future, pandemic behavioral science, methodology, and evidence need to be updated and expanded.

“Fighting this pandemic will require new ‘weapons’ and a new resolve on the part of the government and the public,” says Allegrante, professor of Columbias Teachers College and Mailman School of Public Health. “A national historic commitment is needed in which behavior change methodology is a dominant weapon in the nation’s public health arsenal.”