Posted Friday 1 May 2020
The public's understanding of and attitudes towards coronavirus testing – and the factors shaping them – is being explored by a team of Kingston University researchers.
The study is being launched as the issue of testing becomes an increasing focus during the Covid-19 pandemic, with different approaches being undertaken by countries around the world and various types of tests being discussed, developed and introduced. The researchers are keen to gain an insight into the views of both the wider public and health professionals towards testing, which could inform how such information is communicated in the future.
As part of the project, a 15-minute public survey has been created by a team of health psychology and microbiology experts at Kingston University. The results are expected to shine a light on beliefs around testing and give an indication of how effective communication on the topic has been.
Medical microbiologist Professor Mark Fielder, from the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing, worked with psychologist Professor Philip Terry, who is also the University's Head of Research, and Dr Tushna Vandrevala, a health psychologist from the Faculty of Business and Social Sciences, to develop the survey.
Understanding how messaging around testing was being interpreted by people across the globe was vitally important and could help shape the way the issue was presented going forward, Professor Fielder said. "There's been a lot of discussion around tests to identify those who currently have coronavirus, as well as antibody tests to find out whether someone has previously had coronavirus and has now recovered.
"Scientists or clinicians might be talking about a particular type of test, but does the public fully understand the phrasing or language they are using and when and how that test could or should be used? The results of studies like this can inform how we communicate around crucial issues such as testing in the future. It will also help us find out where people are getting their information and what they are taking away from that."
Dr Vandrevala, who has conducted similar studies on screening and testing for viral infections such as hepatitis, said their work would help researchers understand the relationship between knowledge and beliefs around coronavirus and attitudes and desires with regards to testing.
"Coronavirus testing has become quite a controversial issue," she said. "Countries perceived to not have as good a regime as others have come in for heavy criticism. There have been calls from some quarters for either community testing or mass population testing. We want to find out more about how the public see these issues and how these views are being informed."
The team is inviting people from across the world to take part in the study, which they hope will also reveal where the public feel testing should be prioritised.
"National governments do not have unlimited resources and the question of where testing should be prioritised is a key part of the debate. Should it be targeted at key workers, those on the frontline, vulnerable groups, people in care homes, families of health workers? We want to understand what people really think about these important issues," Dr Vandrevala said.