Photo of people practicing 6 feet social distancing

The journal Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology recently published a letter by Ascension clinical leaders Dr. Mohamad Fakih and Lisa Sturm, and Dr. Rand Fakih, an educational psychologist, about the importance of adopting protective behaviors to reduce risk of infection related to COVID-19.

The letter, “Overcoming COVID-19: Addressing the Perception of Risk and Transitioning Protective Behaviors to Habits,” by Mohamad Fakih, MD, MPH, Vice President, Quality and Clinical Integration; Lisa Sturm, MPH, CIC, Director, Infection Prevention; and Rand R. Fakih, PhD, who teaches at Wayne State University in Detroit, notes that uncertainty related to the risk for exposure to COVID-19 and uncertainty about the severity of the disease in an individual, combined with the desire of people to return to their normal lives for economic and mental health reasons, has led to varied practices across the nation.

“One of the main predictors of people’s engagement in precautionary behavior is risk Perception,” they say. “People are more likely to comply with the recommended precautionary behaviors if they think that they are susceptible to contracting the disease (i.e., perceived vulnerability) and if that illness is deemed to lead to severe health consequences (i.e., perceived severity).”

To bring about behavioral change, the authors suggest encouraging people to regularly adopt healthy behaviors to minimize exposures to pathogens transmitted through droplets or contact. “This includes regular hand hygiene, no hand shaking or sharing objects, abiding to respiratory etiquette, and avoiding exposure to those that are sick,” they say.

They also suggest that continued public education on these actions will lead them to be culturally accepted and part of regular activities.

Click here to read the letter.