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Luther College professor develops test to analyze prevention behaviors during pandemic

Posted: Thu, Sep 3, 2020 11:13 AM

A Luther College psychology professor has developed a test which can be used to determine if people are taking the proper precautions against the spread of COVID-19.

Loren Toussaint says without an effective treatment or vaccine, following CDC guidance on hand washing, keeping physical distance from others and wearing a face mask is the best way to prevent or stop COVID spread. But Toussaint says there has been virtually no attention to developing a valid test to assess who is acting in healthy ways and who is not during a pandemic.

That is where the "Clean and Contain Scale" comes in. Toussaint and researchers from Harvard University, Hope College and Stetson University have developed the measure, which consists of nine questions asking how often one completes specific behaviors. Responses were based on a five-point scale with choices: 1 = Never, 2 = Sometimes, 3 = About half the time, 4 = Most of the time, and 5 = Always.

"Measuring and understanding people's behavior is key to helping them change it. That is why we developed this measure—to help us understand and thereby inform healthy infection-prevention behavior across the communities, states and nations that are so severely affected by the pandemic," said Toussaint.

Toussaint and his colleagues tested the validity of the Clean and Contain Scale with the help of more than 800 research participants. Within this group, the researchers found participants were more likely to comply with containing behaviors (keeping physical distance from others, covering one's nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, etc.), than with cleaning behaviors (use of hand sanitizer, cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, etc.) in all studies.

"We hope the Clean and Contain Scale will be widely used by organizations of all types (e.g., businesses, schools, colleges, churches) to help their members understand what they are doing well and what they might be able to improve upon. Organization leaders might note that their members are great at cleaning but not containing and this might be a useful insight that guides education, especially daily reminders, emails, text messages, etc. prompting people to be vigilant about containing the spread of the virus," said Toussaint.

"Clean and Contain: Initial Development of a Measure of Infection Prevention Behaviors during the COVID-19 Pandemic" by Toussaint and his colleagues was published in the "Annals of Behavioral Medicine" in August.