Health care providers often frame their immunization promotions by explaining that vaccination protects the individual.
Patients are usually complacent about their own health. For example, only 25% of adults have received the recommended hepatitis B vaccine.
However, media coverage of emphasizing the risk of Reye’s syndrome linked to parents giving their children aspirin decreased the disease’s incidence by more than 80% between 1981 and 1996. Other successful campaigns have focused on the effect of maternal smoking on children’s health and the reduction in sudden infant death syndrome by putting a baby on its back.
These campaigns succeed by using altruism for loved ones, but this effect may not work as well when strangers are involved. Might vaccine uptake increase when patients have serious concerns about their loved ones or society at-large?
An article published ahead-of-print in Health Communication indicates that influenza vaccine promotions are most effective when they’re framed as promoting the welfare of loved ones or society.
Frame shifting from self to others improved information uptake and willingness to act. Promotions highlighting the benefit to others increased participants’ intentions to find vaccines at low to no cost, pay for a vaccine, and seek more information about vaccines.
Promoting the welfare of society at-large worked better than targeting loved ones. The magnitude of small actions on large populations may drive this surprising finding. We filter self-targeting messages defensively, but the novelty of messages targeted at others improves memory of promotions.
Low survey response (21%) may over-represent the strength of altruism for others in the study sample, but regardless, 485 individuals responded. Future research can isolate those with extreme altruism and those most hesitant to receive and recommend vaccines.Health promotions targeting the benefit of others are more effective than efforts to change the observer’s behavior. Better targeted vaccination efforts can prevent measles, pertussis, and other vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks.