Background: Every year during influenza season, preventable illnesses occur due to lack of vaccination and failure to adopt the preventive behaviors known as non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs). In an effort to study the impact of preventive strategies and policies on behavioral changes during the spread of the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, we examined a sample of undergraduate, graduate and business students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Methods: An online survey was completed by 653 students to assess NPI use, perceptions of influenza vaccinations and effectiveness of preventive health policy strategies during the 2009 H1N1 outbreak. Strategies included e-mails and text messages, posters in corridors and restrooms, and videos. These strategies were implemented during both the first and second waves of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.
Results: Despite the widespread campaign, fewer than half of the respondents reported modifying their behaviors. We discovered that >70% of the respondents did not practice any NPIs, and more than half showed lack of knowledge of flu vaccinations.
Conclusions: Our study results indicate a need for more effective strategies to encourage NPI practices in student populations during outbreaks of infection.