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Using Virtual Reality to Increase Flu Vaccination Rates

Sherry Yates Young / Shutterstock.com

Sherry Yates Young / Shutterstock.com

A recent study suggests that VR could serve as a communication tool for improving flu vaccination rates. Studies have shown that flu vaccination acceptance rates have reduced significantly in the United States.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only about 27 percent of 18-49 years old received a vaccination during the 2017-2018 flu season. Meanwhile, the agency recommends that all 18 to 49 years old get vaccinated.

Due to this low rate, health professionals have been exploring more persuasive ways to educate adults about flu vaccination. Now, a University of Texas and Oak Ridge Associated Universities study suggests that the immersive experience from VR could be effective.

The principal investigator and director of the Center for Health and Risk Communication at Grady College, Glen Nowak, said:

“When it comes to health issues, including flu, virtual reality holds promise because it can help people see the possible effects of their decisions, such as not getting a flu vaccine.”

So, how could virtual reality help increase flu vaccination rates?

How VR Could Help Flu Vaccination Rates

For the study, the researchers assigned 171 participants who hadn’t received a flu shot in the past year into four groups.

The first group got a five-minute VR experience. Meanwhile, the second group watched a video that was identical to the VR experience but without the 3D and interactive elements.

The researchers presented to the third group an e-pamphlet that used texts and pictures from the videos. Then the fourth, the control group, only read the CDC’s influenza vaccination information statement.

In the VR condition, the participants experienced information and events like a story. They also had video game controllers, which enabled them to participate in the story.

As a result, they expressed more concerns about transmitting flu to others. Compared to the e-pamphlet and video group, the VR experience showed an increased intention to get a flu vaccination.

This study affirms there is much to be excited about when it comes to using virtual reality for health communication,” says Karen Carera, a senior evaluation specialist at ORAU.

However, Carera points out that VR can only change behaviors and beliefs when the presentation doesn’t focus on storytelling alone. “They need to get users to feel like they are actually in the story,” she concluded.

Read More: Meet DreamWalker: Microsoft’s Spin on VR Commute

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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