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.
The objective of this study is to understand the pathways through which social influence at the family level moderates the impact of childhood obesity interventions. We conducted a systematic review of obesity interventions in which parents' behaviours are targeted to change children's obesity outcomes, because of the potential social and environmental influence of parents on the nutrition and physical activity behaviours of children. PubMed (1966-2013) and the Web of Science (1900-2013) were searched, and 32 studies satisfied our inclusion criteria. Results for existing mechanisms that moderate parents' influence on children's behaviour are discussed, and a causal pathway diagram is developed to map out social influence mechanisms that affect childhood obesity. We provide health professionals and researchers with recommendations for leveraging family-based social influence mechanisms to increase the efficacy of obesity intervention programmes.
People regularly use online social networks due to their convenience, efficiency, and significant broadcasting power for sharing information. However, the diffusion of information in online social networks is a complex and dynamic process. In this research, we used a case study to examine the diffusion process of an online petition. The spread of petitions in social networks raises various theoretical and practical questions: What is the diffusion rate? What actions can initiators take to speed up the diffusion rate? How does the behavior of sharing between friends influence the diffusion process? How does the number of signatures change over time? In order to address these questions, we used system dynamics modeling to specify and quantify the core mechanisms of petition diffusion online; based on empirical data, we then estimated the resulting dynamic model. The modeling approach provides potential practical insights for those interested in designing petitions and collecting signatures. Model testing and calibration approaches (including the use of empirical methods such as maximum-likelihood estimation, the Akaike information criterion, and likelihood ratio tests) provide additional potential practices for dynamic modelers. Our analysis provides information on the relative strength of push (i.e., sending announcements) and pull (i.e., sharing by signatories) processes and insights about awareness, interest, sharing, reminders, and forgetting mechanisms. Comparing push and pull processes, we found that diffusion is largely a pull process rather than a push process. Moreover, comparing different scenarios, we found that targeting the right population is a potential driver in spreading information (i.e., getting more signatures), such that small investments in targeting the appropriate people have ‘disproportionate’ effects in increasing the total number of signatures. The model is fully documented for further development and replications.
Individuals make decisions every day. How they come up with estimates to guide their decisions could be a result of a combination of different information sources such as individual beliefs and previous knowledge, random guesses, and social cues. This study aims to sort out individual estimate assessments over multiple times with the main focus on how individuals weigh their own beliefs vs. those of others in forming their future estimates. Using dynamics modeling, we build on data from an experiment conducted by Lorenz et al.  where 144 subjects made five estimates for six factual questions in an isolated manner (no interaction allowed between subjects). We model the dynamic mechanisms of changing estimates for two different scenarios: 1) when individuals are not exposed to any information and 2) when they are under social influence.
Human body energy storage operates as a stock‐and‐flow system with inflow (food intake) and outflow (energy expenditure). In spite of the ubiquity of stock‐and‐flow structures, evidence suggests that human beings fail to understand stock accumulation and rates of change, a difficulty called the stock–flow failure. This study examines the influence of health care training and cultural background in overcoming stock–flow failure. A standardized protocol assessed lay people's and health care professionals’ ability to apply stock‐and‐flow reasoning to infer the dynamics of weight gain/loss during the holiday season (621 subjects from seven countries). Our results indicate that both types of subjects exhibited systematic errors indicative of use of erroneous heuristics. Indeed 76% of lay subjects and 71% of health care professionals failed to understand the simple dynamic impact of energy intake and energy expenditure on body weight. Stock–flow failure was found across cultures and was not improved by professional health training. The problem of stock–flow failure as a transcultural global issue with education and policy implications is discussed.