Build support for COVID-19 contact tracing and other public health measures by working with trusted messengers

July 20, 2020

Green concentric circles with a red figure in the center and orange and green figures around, illustrating contact tracing.A new survey from the Center for Health and Research Transformation (CHRT) and Department of Learning Health Sciences (DLHS) at the University of Michigan finds that while more than two-thirds of Michiganders report that they would be willing to participate in some form of COVID-19 contact tracing, one-third report that they would not, and many express concerns about misinformation regarding COVID-19 and about the privacy of their personal health information. Contact tracing is an essential public health measure for combating infectious disease and the survey, which was fielded in late May and collected feedback from a representative sample of more than one thousand Michiganders, suggests ways to build support for contact tracing.

Key findings include:

  • More than two-thirds of respondents reported that they would be willing to participate in at least one contact tracing effort, including sharing personal information, sharing contacts, or reporting symptoms to local or state health departments.
  • Black respondents reported a greater willingness to participate in contact tracing activities than white respondents or other respondents of color, but also reported concerns that their health care providers would not safeguard their privacy and personal information.
  • On average, respondents who worry that their private health information could be used against them reported significantly less willingness to participate in any contact tracing efforts.
  • More respondents were willing to share contacts with local or state health departments than were willing to use an app to share symptoms with local or state health departments.

“People trust health care providers, public health officials, and Governor Whitmer more than many other sources when it comes to communicating important messages about COVID-19,” says Melissa Riba, director of research and evaluation at CHRT. She adds that to build support for contact tracing as the COVID-19 pandemic continues and contact tracing and infection control practices remain critical, sustained engagement from the most trusted messengers will be essential.