Measuring citizens' engagement during emergencies: Psychometric validation of the Public Health Engagement Scale for Emergency Settings (PHEs-E).
Graffigna, G, Palamenghi, L, Barello, S, Savarese, M, Castellini, G, Lozza, E, Bonanomi, A
PloS one. 2021;(12):e0261733
The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of citizens' behaviors in the containment of the virus. Individuals might change their intention to adhere to public health prescriptions depending on various personal characteristics, including their own emotional status, which has been recognized to be a crucial psychological factor in orienting people's adherence to public health recommendation during emergency settings. In particular, it is crucial to support citizens' alliance with authorities and feeling of trust: public engagement is a concept that refers to the general involvement of citizens into public affairs which is generally considered an effective approach to enhance citizens' understanding of their crucial role in public affairs. However, so far there is no agreement on the metrics and indexes that should be used to measures public engagement during a health crisis. The aim of this paper is to validate a psychometric scale (PHEs-E), which intends to measure the readiness of individuals to adhere to the prescribed behavioral change to contain the emergency. Data were collected throughout the pandemic in Italy: in particular, five independent samples were recruited starting from March 2020 to March 2021. Results showed that the proposed measure has good psychometric characteristics. A general linear model was computed to assess the differences of public engagement across the different data points and among citizens with different sociodemographic characteristics. Correlations with other psychological constructs (i.e. Anxiety, Depression and Self-Efficacy) were also tested, showing that more engaged citizens have a lower level of anxiety and depression, and a higher self-efficacy. This study's findings indicate that individuals' characteristics may differentiate citizens' motivation to engage in public health behavioral recommendation to prevent the COVID-19 contagion. However the scale could be useful to perform a psychological monitoring of psychological readiness to engage in public health strategies to face critical events and settings.