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‘Intention-action gap’ on handwashing, heard NPHET subgroup on behaviour change

People have “a high degree” of awareness of the importance of handwashing to combat SARS-CoV-2 but are “less informed about what is good handwashing and practice it”, state meeting minutes of the behavioural change subgroup of the national public health emergency team (NPHET).

The video conference on 2 April also noted a gender gap, “with males less effective and likely to wash their hands”.

The group was discussing a paper on hand hygiene circulated by Mr Robert Murphy of the research services and policy section in the Department of Health.

“There is a high degree of the awareness of the importance of handwashing but people are less informed about what is good handwashing and practice it, there is an intention-action gap,” stated meeting minutes.

“There is an additional gender gap, with males less effective and likely to wash their hands. An intervention of the production of posters for display in public restrooms was discussed for coming relaxation of measures, including options for testing this.

“Whilst a field trial may be the best methodology to test posters, it was discussed that the time frame and sample size may not enable such a methodology. Posters could be tested with the weekly focus groups and discussion on having an efficacy or emotionally based message, with male and female targeted posters.”

The meeting also discussed physical changes in business, the workplace and other environments to support key behaviours.

“Evidence to suggest that the floor based social distancing prompts are working outside retail premises,” outlined the minutes. “Larger businesses are more able to implement these measurers however extra support for SME sector may be required.”

Prof Liam Delaney, a behavioural economics expert at University College Dublin, “suggested that the Health and Safety Authority are beginning to look at and take a part in the generation of business specific guidance and the possibility of a compliance-inspection type regime”.

“There was a discussion about how significant behaviour adaptation has already occurred and the importance of timing to ensure that these are sustained when measures are stepped down.

“The Chair [Ms Kate O’Flaherty, Health and Wellbeing, Department of Health] re-stated that the group will input into NPHET for consideration when there is a move to the reduction of measures.”

Meanwhile, the video conference of the subgroup on 27 March heard about an App under development to track and map Covid-19 symptoms amongst the population.

“There is a need to encourage download and sustain use of the App,” according to minutes.

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