The COVID-19 pandemic left the world with new unprecedented challenges, including ensuring compliance with public health measures such as mask-wearing and social distancing. We partnered with UNICEF’s Europe and Central Asia Regional Office (ECARO) and Kyrgyzstan country office to investigate what drives compliance with public health recommendations during the pandemic.
UNICEF conducted a telephone survey to assess 1,000 Kyrgyzstan residents’ willingness and commitment to comply with COVID-19-related public health measures. The survey asked participants about their current compliance behaviors and their intention to comply in the future. Participants were asked how often in the last month they had followed COVID-19 prevention recommendations from the Ministry of Health, worn a mask in public, and maintained social distancing in public. The survey also asked participants how often they intended to comply with prevention measures within the next month. Compliance frequency was assessed on a 1 to 5 scale (1=never, 5=always).
In addition, survey participants were asked about the ease of following COVID-19 prevention measures and their view of the effectiveness of the measures in protecting them from contracting the virus. Participants were also asked to assess their risk in various ways as well as their own and others’ attitudes toward compliance, including their family, community members, the government, religious leaders, and healthcare providers.
The survey found that on average, respondents’ intention to comply in the future was higher than their current self-reported compliance. This pattern in which future intentions are more desirable than a person’s current practice is known as the intention-action gap.
Figure 1. Respondents’ intentions to comply with public health recommendations are higher than current compliance.
We found that the largest influences associated with a respondent’s decision to follow public health measures were their own attitude about compliance and the perceived attitudes of those closest to them socially--their family and community. Perception of risk and the respondents’ assessment of their government and healthcare providers attitudes appear to have minimal impact on compliance behavior.
Figure 2. A breakdown of the drivers of survey respondents’ self-reported compliance behavior.
Why It Matters
Our findings suggest that authority such as government, religious leaders, and healthcare providers as well as interventions to help people understand their risks of contracting COVID-19 are unlikely to increase compliance behavior. Our recommendations in Kyrgyzstan to increase compliance with public health measures include focusing on the attitudes of community members, targeting individuals’ personal perceptions, and making it easy to comply with public health measures.