Awareness, Information-Seeking Behavior, and Information Preferences About Early Childhood Allergy Prevention Among Different Parent Groups : Protocol for a Mixed Methods Study.


In early childhood allergy prevention (ECAP), parents act on behalf of their children. Parental health literacy and the availability of high-quality information, both online and offline, are crucial for effective ECAP. Recent research highlights three main points. First, parents need sufficient health literacy to discriminate between high-quality and low-quality information. Second, ECAP information behaviors may vary between phases of childhood development and according to individual circumstances. Third, to strengthen user-centeredness of available services, a better overview of parents' information practices and needs and how they handle uncertainties is required.


This study aims to explore why, how, and when parents search for and apply ECAP-specific health information and which individual (eg, understanding of advice) and organizational challenges (eg, information services, information complexity, and changing recommendations) they perceive and how they handle them. This study also aims to assess the needs and preferences that parents express for future information formats and contents. The findings should inform the practical design of ECAP information as well as formats and channels specific to different parent groups.


The above-named issues will be explored with parents in four German cities as one element in our efforts to cover the spectrum of perspectives. Based on a mixed methods design, including qualitative and quantitative assessments, the first year serves to prepare focus groups, a piloted focus group guide, a short standardized survey adapted from the European Health Literacy Project, recruitment channels, and the recruitment of participants. After conducting 20 focus groups in the second year, data will be analyzed via a constant comparison method in the third year. Based on this, practice implications on channels (ie, Where?), formats (ie, How?), and contents (ie, What?) of ECAP-specific information will be derived and discussed with parents and associated project partners before its dissemination to relevant ECAP actors (eg, childcare institutions and pediatricians).


The study began with preselection of recruitment channels, drafting of recruitment and study information for potential participants, and agreement on a first full version of the guideline. Then, a detailed contact list was compiled of health professionals, administrative and social institutions, and relevant social media channels (N=386) to be approached for assistance in contacting parents. The recruitment was postponed due to COVID-19 and will start in January 2021.


ECAP is a relevant example for assessing how users (ie, parents) handle not only health information but the various and continuous changes, uncertainties, and controversies attached to it. So far, it is unclear how parents implement the respective scientific recommendations and expert advice, which is why this study aims to inform those who communicate with parents about ECAP information.

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