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Locals needed for COVID-19 Prevention Project

Researchers from the University of Kentucky are reaching out to locals throughout Appalachia and the rest of the state for help in learning how to control and end the spread of COVID-19.

Through the COVID-19 Prevention Project from Wellness, Health and You (WHY), an ongoing research project that seeks to understand how different life experiences affect well-being and health outcomes, scientists and doctors hope to develop a better understanding of the virus and how it spreads.

Marc Kiviniemi, professor and chair of the Department of Health, Behavior, and Society in the UK College of Public Health, is serving as principal investigator during the project to help digest the vast amount of information obtained from the surveys.

“We want to understand more about how people are thinking and feeling about the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “We also want to try to understand what people are doing or what they are not doing to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect both themselves and the rest of the community. We want to know their experiences.”

Kiviniemi said their ultimate goal is to be able to do “the best possible job” they can for telling people what they need to do to stay safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic and even future pandemics.

“We’re not only taking measures to prevent ourselves from being infected, but the measures people are being asked to take are to really protect the entire community,” he said.

Kiviniemi said it is as much about keeping others safe as it is his own personal risk of infection.

“Understanding people’s thoughts and feelings, what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, will help us do a better job of crafting messages, helping people understand how to engage in those behaviors successfully, and ultimately, help us do the most effective job of keeping all of us safe,” he said.

Kiviniemi said there are three big categories involved in the questions on the survey, which include what you think/feel about COVID-19, preventive actions against the virus and real-life experiences from people impacted by the virus.

“We’ll ask you things like how likely it is that you think you could be infected with COVID-19, how would you feel if it happened… anything from masks to washing hands to staying home,” he said. “We want to understand what people have been trying to do and been successful at doing.”

Kiviniemi said because of COVID-19, he has been home with his children for three or four months, having to home-school them for two of those months.

“At the risk of stating the blindingly obvious, all of these protective measures we’ve been asked to do are really hard. We’re being asked to do things that are challenging, that are difficult and unpleasant, and we know that has an impact on people’s lives.”

Kiviniemi said the survey is open and live now.

“There is no defined end date, so part of what we’ll be able to do is see how people’s answers and responses change over the course of this pandemic,” he said. “When we’re talking about Harlan County, part of what’s important is that everybody takes part.”

Kiviniemi said to get accurate results from the survey, he and other researchers need responses from individuals from all backgrounds because everyone experiences a pandemic differently, whether they are female or male, African American or Caucasian, part of the LGBT+ community and more.

“We know that getting the healthcare of COVID-19 is different in Harlan County relative to Lousivlle or Lexington, or other places in the state,” he said. “So, we need people from across the Commonwealth, including individuals from Harlan County.”

Ann Coker, director of WHY, said she is excited to partner with Kiviniemi and his collaborators in this research opportunity.

She said WHY is a research project sponsored by the University of Kentucky’s Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences that seeks to reach people from all walks of life across Kentucky.

“With this COVID-19 Prevention Project, we hope to find out what prevention measures or behaviors people are using. We want to know what people are doing to prevent COVID-19 for themselves, their families and their communities,” she said. “Through Wellness, Health & You, our goal is to provide the results of this survey back to Kentuckians to help us help each other stay healthy and safe.”

To participate in the survey, please click here to begin your questionnaire.