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University of Michigan School of Information


Assessing the Effects of Social Norms on Adolescent Smoking in Schools

In order to develop better public health interventions, it is important to understand the mechanisms by which they exert their effects. Interventions that act on groups of people or whole populations may be more effective at reducing health inequalities than those that target individuals. Changing social norms is one way of affecting behavior in groups of people, but these social norms often depend on connections and shared "understandings" between members of the population. The connections between people are what characterize their shared "social network" and this may affect the way that social norms spread among people. Public health scientists know surprisingly little about how best to measure and evaluate the spread of social norms and their effects on behavior. For this project, researchers harness the perspectives from scientists from different disciplines, for example, from economics and computer science, to compare and contrast two school-based interventions that aim to prevent smoking uptake among adolescents (13/14 year olds) in the UK and in Colombia  a LMIC and high income setting where smoking rates and norms are different  in order to reveal potential differences in the social norms-based mechanisms of action.

Overall aims:

  1. To improve the measurement of social norms around smoking behaviors in adolescents
  2. To use these improved measures to better understand the spread of social norms in school settings
  3. To better characterize the potential mechanisms of action of smoking prevention interventions in schools
  4. To learn lessons for the design and evaluation of behavior change interventions that invoke mechanisms which change social norms
  5. To build a legacy of transdisciplinary research capacity in public health science in a LMIC setting, with clear pathways to impact
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The amount of the award is $7,751 for UMSI for the project period. The grant is funded by Queens University with funds from the Medical Research Council.