The role of parents in reducing the transmission of infectious diseases in schools

Lead Research Organisation: King's College London
Department Name: Psychological Medicine


Certain infectious diseases, including flu and diarrhoea or
vomiting, spread readily among school children. To combat
this, Public Health England has produced recommendations
about the length of time children should be kept off school if
they are ill with different conditions. Unfortunately, evidence
suggests that these recommendations are often not
followed: one in six parents in England has admitted that
they would send their child to school even if they had
diarrhoea or vomiting. As far as we know, there has been no
academic research to understand why parents send sick
children to school, or what we can do to discourage this. In
this PhD, we will use interviews and focus groups with parents
to understand these issues better. We will also explore
current school policies and communication materials to see
what advice and messages parents are currently receiving.
We will then develop new advice for parents based on our
findings and also on previous studies about how to influence
other types of health-related behaviour. Our hope will be that
this new advice will increase the chances of parents keeping
their children out of school when sick. To test this, we will
take a group of 466 parents, and ask each parent to read
either our new material or existing messages about sickness
in school children. Each parent will only get one of the
messages, and we will decide which message each parent
receives completely at random. After reading it, they will
then be asked to imagine that their child wakes up tomorrow
with diarrhoea, and will be asked whether they would be likely
to send them to school or not. We hope that parents
receiving our new messages will be less likely to say that the
child will go to school.
The project will be a partnership between academic
psychologists at King's College London and public health
experts and Public Health England. If our new intervention is
successful, we hope that Public Health England will change
the advice that they provide to schools and parents based
on our findings, and fewer children are sent to school while ill as a result


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publication icon
Brooks SK (2020) The impact of unplanned school closure on children's social contact: rapid evidence review. in Euro surveillance : bulletin Europeen sur les maladies transmissibles = European communicable disease bulletin

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Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000703/1 30/09/2017 29/09/2027
2317432 Studentship ES/P000703/1 30/09/2019 30/03/2023 Lisa Woodland