Meeting report: Understanding the behavioural aspects and the role of health communication in mitigating the impact of seasonal influenza

Scientific and technical publications

The meeting report covers health communication strategies that could be undertaken to better promote influenza prevention measures and the healthcare professionals’ role in the uptake of seasonal influenza vaccination. In January 2011, ECDC organised a workshop to exchange countries’ experiences and discuss recent research on behavioural aspects of the population response to preventive measures regarding influenza. “Understanding the behavioural aspects and the role of health communication in mitigating the impact of seasonal influenza” was a two-day meeting held in Stockholm and brought together behavioural scientists, experts in communication and public health professionals.

Executive summary

Healthcare professionals are key players in the implementation of vaccination programmes in general and in advising and delivering influenza vaccination in particular. Various studies in European Union (EU) Member States indicate a low uptake of the influenza vaccine among healthcare professionals, as well as European citizens belonging to risk groups. At the same time, there is often a high confidence expressed in doctors’ advice on influenza prevention. Concerns regarding the effectiveness and safety of the flu vaccine among healthcare professionals and lack of their clear recommendation to patients (to get immunised) are strong obstacles to higher vaccination coverage among healthcare professionals, patients and the general population. The critical role of healthcare professionals in the implementation of vaccination programmes can be enhanced through evidence-based interventions using, among others, specific health education, information, and by setting concrete influenza vaccination goals. Individuals and healthcare workers should be able to access, appraise and effectively use health-related information. Health literacy is a major factor to consider when looking at what drives behaviour in relation to seasonal influenza vaccination and when planning health communication. Annual vaccination campaigns have the potential to build awareness, motivate the public and ultimately to achieve high vaccination coverage. Key drivers towards seasonal influenza vaccination are the physicians’ recommendations and their perception of the disease, as well as vaccine acceptability and adequate funding.