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ORAU Assists CDC with Improving Messaging on Flu Prevention at U.S.-Mexico Border

CDC Health Advisory poster

Hoping to reduce the international transmission of infectious diseases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tested the effectiveness of seasonal flu prevention posters at the United States-Mexico border with the help of ORAU health communication experts at ORAU in April 2012.

A survey at a border crossing in San Ysidro, Calif., set out to evaluate whether pedestrian travelers noticed the posters and recalled their messages, including a recommendation to get flu shots.

A report prepared by ORAU for the CDC’s Travelers’ Health Branch (THB) found 2.6 percent of the pedestrian border crossers who were surveyed recalled seeing the posters. The recall should have been higher than observed, although not remarkably higher, the report said.

The report offered recommendations to help increase the traveler recall rate, such as:

  • Displaying posters in alternative locations.
  • Displaying posters in multiple locations where there are few competing messages or distractions such as document checks.
  • Displaying the posters early in the flu season and using fewer words.

The report also said researchers need a better understanding of why some pedestrian travelers object to getting the flu shot. The survey found a large majority of travelers believed that the flu is dangerous and it’s a good idea to get a flu shot, but two-thirds of them choose not to be vaccinated.

Karen Carera, an ORAU senior evaluation specialist who works with the CDC in Atlanta on special projects, said researchers wanted to see if the San Ysidro border crossing was a good place to educate pedestrian travelers because some of them wait in line for up to an hour and are a captive audience.

“The Traveler’s Health Branch at CDC is always seeking to learn more about how to best communicate with travelers,” said Kelly Holton, CDC Travelers’ Health communications and education team lead.

“Pedestrians at the land borders have different communication needs than travelers at airports, and this project helped us begin to learn about which methods are best for this important audience.”