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Potential Acceptance of A Mobile Phone Based Influenza Communication System among Adolescents, Parents and Teachers: Role of Peers and Social Influence

Principal Investigator (PI): Assoc Prof May O. Lwin

Co-Principal Investigator (Co-PI): Dr Yung Chee Fu

Collaborators: Assoc Prof Leo Yee Sin, Asst Prof Cheong Siew Ann, Dr Santosh Vijaykumar, Dr Owen Noel Newton Fernando

Start Date: Mar 2014

End Date: On-going

Abstract: Influenza affects nearly 20% of Singapore’s population, and its transmission in adolescents is a major contributor to outbreaks resulting in major morbidity and mortality of the elderly. Emerging evidence informs us that the penetration of mobile phones among adolescents can be blended with crowdsourcing interventions in health communication to develop innovative solutions to address this problem.

Specifically, our proposal adapts and tests an existing participatory health communication model for influenza prevention among adolescents. In this framework, adolescents will contribute to monitoring influenza outbreaks using their mobile phones by reporting temperature and other influenza-like symptoms on a weekly basis. The system responds to the adolescents’ report by delivering theoretically informed health messages pertaining to influenza transmission, and preventive behaviours that can help to protect them from influenza. In addition, the system potentially builds civic responsibility in adolescents by empowering them to be health advocates where they can share influenza-related health information with their peer networks using simple mobile-based media such as short messaging service (SMS) and Whatsapp.

We hypothesize that a mobile-mediated peer influence model can positively shape influenza-related behaviours, awareness and attitudes among adolescents. We plan to empirically examine the social acceptance of our system among 1000 students, and obtain feedback from 4 groups of parents and teachers by focusing on perceived barriers and benefits affecting the adoption of our technology. We will employ a mixed-method cohort study in two schools, combining pre-post surveys and focus group discussions.

Our study breaks new ground in developing and testing a mobile-mediated peer influence driven approach to influenza prevention among adolescents in Singapore. The epidemiological data on influenza-like illness will be invaluable in informing public health policies and preparedness. Our findings will produce scientific evidence of relevance to health promotion practitioners and lay the foundation for similar health innovations in the future.