What is it about?

A study was conducted to see if it makes a difference when public health officials tell people about the uncertainty in their recommendations. Uncertainty here refers to the acknowledgement that there may be limitations to the available evidence or understanding of the issue, and that there may be potential for new information to arise and change the recommendation. Researchers found that when officials are transparent about the uncertainty, people are more likely to follow the recommendation, but this depends on how likely people were to follow it in the first place. If people were less likely to follow the recommendation, being transparent made them more likely to follow it. These findings suggest that public health officials should consider how they communicate their recommendations.

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Why is it important?

The results of this study have implications for how public health recommendations are communicated, especially during a pandemic when recommendations may change frequently. Presenting information transparency can increase adherence among people who wouldn't have followed the recommendation otherwise.


Through this study I have seen firsthand how important it is to communicate health information transparently. This is especially true during a pandemic, where lack of transparency can lead to confusion and mistrust. This study's findings have encouraged me to advocate for clear and honest communication in public health messaging, and I hope it will inspire others to do the same.

Lucy D'Agostino McGowan
Wake Forest University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Randomized controlled trial: Quantifying the impact of disclosing uncertainty on adherence to hypothetical health recommendations, PLoS ONE, December 2022, PLOS, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0278263.
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