Publication: The design of a survey questionnaire to measure perceptions and behaviour during an influenza pandemic: the Flu TElephone Survey Template (FluTEST)

12 November 2014

This study, published in November 2014 by the NHS National Institute for Health Research, (Rubin GJ, Bakhshi S, Amlôt R, Fear N, Potts HWW, Michie S (2014). The design of a survey questionnaire to measure perceptions and behaviour during an influenza pandemic: The Flu TElephone Survey Template (FluTEST). Health Services & Delivery Research, 2(41).), set out to improve the design of surveys in preparation for a future pandemic.

The research team included Henry Potts of UCL CHIME and Susan Michie, director of UCL’s Centre for Behaviour Change, as well as colleagues from King’s College London and Public Health England.

The study

  1. identified what questions should be asked about behaviour, perceptions and symptoms;
  2. checked that these questions were easy to understand;
  3. checked whether people gave consistent answers to questions when asked a week apart; and
  4. tested whether people who dropped out of a two-stage survey were different to people who did not.

The result is a set of questions covering the key areas that should be measured in the next flu pandemic and which can be used as soon as a pandemic begins. The questions could also be readily adapted for other infectious disease pandemics which, as recent news stories about ebola illustrate, remain a major threat to global health.

The main way of tackling an emerging pandemic is through behaviour, but to do that well, we need insights into what the public are thinking. The 2009/10 flu pandemic killed over a quarter of a million people worldwide and, during its course, the UK Department of Health carried out regular telephone surveys to assess how people were reacting to the threat. While the results from these were informative and have taught us much about what happened (see Rubin GJ, Potts HWW, Michie S (2010). The impact of communications about swine flu (influenza A H1N1v) on public responses to the outbreak: Results from 36 national telephone surveys in the UK. Health Technology Assessment, 14(34), 183-266.), the design of the surveys left room for improvement, something that this study sought to address.

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