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Project #8:
Examining the effects of randomising dissemination of the Germ Defence website via GP practices on rates of respiratory infection, including COVID-19 and seasonal flu

  • Type: Research

Recent research into coronavirus has shown that members of the public can play a crucial role in controlling infection outbreaks, by adopting simple behaviours to curb the spread of infection in the home such as handwashing, cleaning surfaces, wearing of face coverings and social distancing. Despite public health advice, evidence shows most people need to change their behaviour to help prevent infection.

Germ Defence is an interactive website employing behaviour change techniques to supplement public health advice. Germ Defence was originally developed during the H1N1 swine flu pandemic using theory, evidence and extensive feedback from members of the public. It was then trialled in over 20,000 patients and shown to reduce the number and severity of infections of users and members of their household. Germ Defence has recently been updated for the COVID-19 pandemic. The website aims to help users with pre-planning about effective isolation of an infected household member; personalised goal setting for increasing a range of infection control behaviours; changing the home environment to support new habits and problem solving to overcome barriers.

What is the aim of the project?

This project aims to examine the effects of randomising dissemination of the Germ Defence website via GP practices on rates of respiratory infection, including COVID-19 and seasonal flu.

What are we doing?

We will contact every GP practice in England and ask them to share the link to Germ Defence with their patients. Half of the practices will be randomly chosen and asked to immediately send out the Germ Defence link to their patients in the Autumn of 2020. These practices will be known as the intervention arm or immediate implementation group. The other half of the practices will be contacted to send out Germ Defence in March 2021 and will be known as the usual care arm or delayed implementation group. We will assess usage of the Germ Defence link from anonymous data produced by the website. We will then use anonymised national data that is collected as part of routine care to compare whether infection rates are lower in practices that sent Germ Defence information to their patients immediately, compared to those that didn’t send the information until later.