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USF Studying How Health Ads Affect Hesitancy To Seek Care During Pandemic

The study uses technology to analyze people's facial expressions as they look at health ads to try and capture their emotions.
The study uses technology to analyze people's facial expressions as they look at health ads to try and capture their emotions.

Researchers say the goal of the study is to improve health messaging so hospitals and health agencies can better connect with the community.

Researchers with the University of South Florida are studying how effective health care advertisements are at convincing people to receive in-person services. They're inviting people who have been hesitant to seek routine or emergency care because of the COVID-19 pandemic to participate.

The online survey involves a partnership between USF's College of Public Health and Zimmerman School of Advertising & Communications. It involves showing participants a series of ads and asking them to share how they feel after seeing them.

University of South Florida /

Researchers are also using technology to analyze people’s facial expressions and track how long their eyes look at various parts of the message, allowing them to catch subtle reactions participants may not have expressed aloud.

“If we can get honest opinions – and these are the most honest opinions we can get – about what actually stimulates someone to believe a message about health, then we can make much better messaging,” explained Claudia Parvanta, director of the Florida Prevention Research Center at USF.

Analyzing expressions also helps inform whether the information shared in health advertisements is easy to understand.

“So, if you're wrinkling up your nose and your brow is furrowing while you're looking at it, then you might be having difficulty understanding it,” said Parvanta. “So, it's a really good tool for us for making these messages better for our intended users.”

Parvanta said improving the way hospitals and public health agencies connect with residents can make for a healthier community.

Participation in the study is completely online and takes about 30 minutes. It involves using a webcam, but researchers stressed recordings of participants' faces will not be stored or used after they are turned into numerical data.

Click here to sign up for the survey.

Copyright 2021 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Stephanie Colombini joined WUSF Public Media in December 2016 as Producer of Florida Matters, WUSF’s public affairs show. She’s also a reporter for WUSF’s Health News Florida project.