Using Risk Group Profiles as a Lightweight Qualitative Approach for Intervention Development: An Example of Prevention of Tick Bites and Lyme Disease

Desirée Beaujean, Lex Stefan van Velsen, Julia E.W.C. van Gemert-Pijnen, Angelique Maat, Jim van Steenbergen, Rik Crutzen

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    Background: Many public health campaigns use a one-size-fits-all strategy to achieve their desired effect. Public health campaigns for tick bites and Lyme disease (LD) in many countries convey all relevant preventive measures to all members of the public. Although preventing tick bites (eg, by wearing protective clothing or using repellants) and checking for tick bites after visiting a risk area are effective and cost-efficient methods to prevent an individual from contracting a tick-borne disease, public compliance to these methods is low. Objective: We aimed to identify the group of individuals within the general Dutch population that are at high risk of being bitten by a tick or developing LD and to describe their characteristics, knowledge, and perceptions. The incidence of patients visiting their general practitioner for tick bites and erythema migrans (the first sign of LD) has increased tremendously in the last decades in the Netherlands and other European countries; therefore, our efforts can be used to counter this troubling trend. Methods: We conducted in-depth semi-structured interviews to identify individuals belonging to the average risk group. Participants were recruited in two ways. Patients who visited two municipal health services travel health clinics (one in a high-endemic area and one in a low-endemic area) were asked to participate. This resulted in 18 interviews. Further, parents were recruited using the convenience sampling method, which resulted in 7 interviews. We discontinued interviewing when the point of data saturation was reached. We analyzed the results immediately after each interview to identify the point of data saturation. Data saturation is when the new interviews provided no new information compared to the previous interviews. The interviews were transcribed and analyzed using inductive thematic analysis. Results: We identified four groups at risk of being bitten by ticks and developing LD among the general Dutch population. The groups were as follows: (1) outdoor people that check for tick bites, (2) outdoor people that do not check for tick bites, (3) parents that check their children for tick bites, and (4) parents that do not check their children for tick bites. Previous experience with ticks or LD was the main denominator between the groups. Checking for tick bites is a more easily adopted measure than preventing tick bites. Therefore, for all groups, public health efforts in the future should primarily emphasize on the importance of checking for tick bites. Conclusions: The lightweight qualitative approach presented in this paper is highly relevant in tailoring public health efforts toward specific groups. The profiles of members in each risk group and the motivations underlying the behaviors of the members in each risk group can be used to determine the features and content of a targeted communication strategy about ticks and LD
    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere45
    Pages (from-to)-
    JournalJMIR research protocols
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2013

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