A new article by the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Santé Publique (EHESP) has been launched in Epidemics: "Testing a simple and frugal model of health protective behaviour in epidemic times"
The COVID-19 epidemic highlighted the necessity to integrate dynamic human behaviour change into infectious disease transmission models. The adoption of health protective behaviour, such as handwashing or staying at home, depends on both epidemiological and personal variables. However, only a few models have been proposed in the recent literature to account for behavioural change in response to the health threat over time. This study aims to estimate the relevance of TELL ME, a simple and frugal agent-based model developed following the 2009 H1N1 outbreak to explain individual engagement in health protective behaviours in epidemic times and how communication can influence this. Basically, TELL ME includes a behavioural rule to simulate individual decisions to adopt health protective behaviours. To test this rule, we used behavioural data from a series of 12 cross-sectional surveys in France over a 6-month period (May to November 2020). Samples were representative of the French population (N = 24,003). We found the TELL ME behavioural rule to be associated with a moderate to high error rate in representing the adoption of behaviours, indicating that parameter values are not constant over time and that other key variables influence individual decisions. These results highlight the crucial need for longitudinal behavioural data to better calibrate epidemiological models accounting for public responses to infectious disease threats.
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