Luther College professor helps develop test to analyze prevention behaviors during pandemic

Published: Sep. 6, 2020 at 5:32 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 7, 2020 at 5:32 PM CDT
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As the Covid-19 virus made its way across the globe, researchers began searching for an effective treatment or vaccine.

“The problem is those things take time when the virus is novel, that’s literally what we are dealing with, is a virus we are not acquainted with,” Loren Toussaint, Luther College professor of psychology said.

Toussaint said following CDC guidance is the most promising option to prevent the spread of COVID, things like hand washing, social distancing and wearing a mask. Toussaint and his colleagues developed an assessment to measure how often people practice those behaviors.

Luther College professor Loren Toussaint, helped develop an assessment to measure behaviors in...
Luther College professor Loren Toussaint, helped develop an assessment to measure behaviors in a pandemic.(Loren Toussaint,)

“How do we try and get a sense of what people are doing and maybe what they aren’t doing,” he said.

Toussaint said CDC recommendations boil down to two things, behaviors related to cleanliness and containment of your own germs. That’s what the simple nine-question assessment asks about.

The results then let you compare yourself to the standard, but he said the tool can also be used on a larger scale like at places of work or worship.

“The extent in which you may be able to understand or identify a segment of a community or organization that is struggling to behave in ways that are helpful to all of us by preventing the spread of the virus could be very useful because oftentimes, education that is targeted to a certain group or certain individuals is much more helpful in changing their behaviors,” he said.

Toussaint and his colleagues used the assessment early on in the pandemic and of the 900 people who participated, it found most practiced healthy behaviors.

He said it’s hard to capture a sense of all of someone’s behaviors, so this assessment is meant to get to the core of someone’s tendency to engage in good behaviors related to the virus.

“We don’t have to ask you about everything because that would be a very long and exhausting list, but in just nine questions we can get, as a result of the research and science that goes behind the development of a measure of this type, we can get at the core sense of are you willing are interested, are you motivated, are you paying attention and are you acting in ways that are likely to prevent the spread of this pandemic, " Toussaint said.

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