Adapting to the ‘New Normal’: Implications for post-COVID-19 Health Communication and Education
 
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Although many countries are lifting restrictions, there remains much uncertainty over how nations will function with the
ongoing risks of COVID-19 (or future variants) under a ‘new normal’. This project investigates the likeliness of communities in Japan and the UK adapting to incumbent changes to health policies, guidance, and social etiquettes, given the prospects of new waves of infection, social restrictions, employment requirements, and changes in the availability and distribution of vaccines.

 

This will be facilitated using a mixed methods design, in one region with a relatively low recorded rate of vaccine uptake or confidence, in both Japan and the UK. The design builds on the COVID-19 work of two of the project contributors, on mental anxiety and social contact patterns, respectively. The study considers civic engagement as a driver of vaccine engagement in the new normal, and dovetails with the British Academy’s recommended ‘CLEAR’ principles for policy change.

What is the problem this project will tackle?

At the recent G7 Health Ministers’ Meeting officials reaffirmed the need to recognise a unified and systemic approach to public health, particularly in respect of vaccine confidence risks and resilience to health crises. The British Academy
recognises that context-specific approaches are necessary to understand vaccine confidence, and more broadly, vaccine ‘engagement’, given community dynamics and their unique social and material situations.


Our hypothesis is that as we grow more alert to COVID-19 and other potential new pathogens as being part of our daily lives, our engagement with vaccines will no longer be part of isolated decision-making but will itself be influenced by our engagement with other health-related policies and social events. This research seeks to understand the probable dimensionality and optionality of future COVID-19 health policy changes, which options the public might favour, and how they would balance costs, benefits, and risks between policy dimensions.

 

Of the G7 countries, Japan has one of the lowest vaccine uptake rates, due to concerns about safety and side effects (Machida et al., 2021). Interestingly, the UK shares similar qualitative concerns but has the highest average vaccine
confidence with nearly 9/10 (87%) of the population indicating trust in vaccines (Mahase, 2021). A comparative study between regions in these two countries with (relatively) low vaccine confidence or uptake may offer insights on the spectrum of attitudes to COVID-19 policies and by extension, to potential vaccine engagement across the G7.

Why is this important now, and for whom is it relevant?

Although countries are charting a path to recovery and have gradually relaxed restrictions while balancing vaccine
deployment, not all citizens are willing or able to re-adopt the same lifestyle or modes of living socially as they had before the pandemic. The disease and its vaccines have become confounded with other aspects of our lives, including how we work, where we travel, even what we eat (Coles et.al, 2020).


This study is timely because it takes a step toward understanding how communities in low vaccine confidence regions
might accept possible social environments, given changes to health policy and guidance based on new COVID-19
information.

 

Target audiences for project outputs are:

  • Policy makers and public health authorities – findings may stimulate different ways of setting public health targets and deploying vaccination programmes.

  • Health care professionals – findings may expose cognitive gaps in public understanding of the complex information surrounding vaccines, particularly in respect of trade-offs between exposure and lifestyle.

  • Business, enterprise, and risk management professionals – findings may indicate how risk aversion to sickness and health shocks changed, and what that implies for economic targets and business continuity.

  • School educators – findings may suggest ways to bolster health education curricula at early ages to better support trust in and design of healthcare systems in the long term.

What is new or distinctive about this project?

The project relies on creating ‘health scenarios’, reflecting possible combinations of COVID-19 related policies, guidance, and social expectations. These will be presented in pairwise vignettes within: (i) a discrete choice experiment (DCE) survey, and (ii) a focus group setting. The former will model individuals’ preferences for scenario policies under static settings, where impressions and beliefs about their health behaviours are generated under incomplete information. The latter method allows the research team to facilitate participants’ thinking when considering the scenarios in a more dynamic way that incorporates new health events.


Many studies are assessing community preferences for lockdown strategies, vaccine deployment, and virtual medical
consultations, the proposed project is distinctive in investigating preferences under both static and dynamic scenarios.
This is beneficial to provide interrelated insights for stakeholders responsible for ‘target-setting’, and for those involved in
community education and trust-building, to assimilate into the ‘health in all policies’ approach enshrined by the G7 (2021). This approach aligns with the BA’s insights that improving bilateral communication between nations and citizens is key in preparing for future crises.

 

Project partnership & Research team:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The University of Roehampton (London), School of Education is the lead institution in partnership with Nagasaki University, School of Tropical Medicine and Global Health (Japan). Dr Melissa Jogie is Principal Investigator and can be contacted for further information and updates on the project outcomes, outputs and dissemination. 

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Professor Christopher Smith (Co-Investigator) - Nagasaki University

Based at Nagasaki University in Japan, Chris has affiliations with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). He is a trained medical doctor who works on systematic reviews of infectious diseases, and public health interventions across Asian countries.

Dr James Gilleen - Roehampton University, School of Psychology

Was the lead researcher on the COVIDA Study (2020), investigated the psychological impact of COVID-19 on NHS health care staff. His work was included as evidence in a UK Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology (POST) submission to a Commons Select Committee (May, 2021).

Ms Tomoka Nakamura - Project Consultant, WHO

Is a joint PhD student at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Nagasaki University specialising in infectious disease epidemiology and mathematical modelling. She consults for the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters (HQ) as an epidemiologist in the R&D Blueprint unit in the department of Health Emergencies Preparedness and Response, assisting with the Solidarity Trial Vaccines as part of the COVID-19 pandemic response. Previously, she was a Technical Officer at WHO HQ for five years in the Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals department. She coordinated the vaccine preventable disease surveillance networks for invasive bacterial disease, rotavirus and paediatric diarrhoea. Other experience includes PATH (Seattle, Washington), Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre (Seattle, Washington) and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (Baltimore, Maryland) where she also received her Master of Science in Public Health in epidemiology. 

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Want to participate?

In this study we are recruiting participants who are residents who live in North England (UK) and Osaka (Japan) who are 18 years and over. If you are interested in participating in our focus groups which are scheduled to take place in January-February 2022. Please click this link and complete the details and one of our researchers will be in touch with further instructions. Please note, you are paid an honorarium for your participation, and your travel expenses are covered, and off course we will provide some light refreshments on the day. Any questions please get in touch via email.

 

 

This research project has received ethical clearance for conducting this research with human participants from both the University of Roehampton and Nagasaki University. The project was one of seven projects to have been generously funded by The British Academy under this COVID-19 G7 funding scheme. Details of all winners and projects can be seen here.   

Research Assistants - Nagasaki University

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Saki Kawamitsu

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Tin Zar Win