Evaluating COVID-19 Public Health Messaging in Italy: Self-Reported Compliance and Growing Mental Health Concerns

Published on Mar 30, 2020in medRxiv
· DOI :10.1101/2020.03.27.20042820
Soubhik Barari1
Estimated H-index: 1
(Harvard University),
Stefano A. Caria2
Estimated H-index: 2
(UoB: University of Bristol)
+ 15 AuthorsFederico Raimondi Slepoi1
Estimated H-index: 1
Purpose: The COVID-19 death-rate in Italy continues to climb, surpassing that in every other country. We implement one of the first nationally representative surveys about this unprecedented public health crisis and use it to evaluate the Italian government9s public health efforts and citizen responses. Findings: (1) Public health messaging is being heard. At this point, the Italian people understand how to keep themselves and others safe from the SARS-Cov-2 virus. This is true for all population groups we studied, with the partial exception of slightly lower compliance among young adults. Remarkably, even those who do not trust the government, and those who think the government has been untruthful about the crisis mostly believe the public health message and claim to be acting in accordance. (2) The quarantine is beginning to have serious negative effects on the population9s mental health. Policy Recommendations: Public health messaging is being heard and understood. The focus now should move from explaining that citizens should stay at home to what they can do at home. We need interventions that make staying at home and following public health protocols more desirable, or possibly even fun. These interventions could include virtual social interactions, such as online social reading activities, classes, exercise routines, among others - all designed to reduce the boredom of being socially isolated for long periods of time and to increase the attractiveness of following public health recommendations. Interventions like these will grow in importance as the crisis wears on around the world, and staying inside wears on people.
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