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Changing Community Behavior by Connecting to Established Norms

We all know that wearing a mask helps to prevent the spread of COVID-19. At this point, it’s common knowledge, but there are still individuals resistant to the idea. Under these circumstances, changing the attitudes of the public is one of the greatest challenges for health departments.

Some public health agencies are more successful in addressing this challenge than others, as reflected by the variation in mask compliance across the U.S. The most successful agencies have changed community members’ behavior by linking the mask-wearing to existing beliefs. For example, the Illinois Health Department had a successful campaign encouraging residents to wear masks by comparing them to wearing a helmet or seatbelt. Since they linked mask use to safety precautions that people already take on a daily basis, health officials could focus less on changing residents’ minds to changing their behaviors.

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