Information, Perceptions and Health Behavior (2021-2022)


Health decisions and behavior are often intertwined with perceptions influenced by information access, culture and social norms, and policies that may elicit acceptance or resistance. For example, vaccines have been a savior invention for individual health and the greater society, but doubts about vaccines’ necessity, efficacy and safety have endured since the 1800s. Vaccine hesitancy has led to suboptimal immunizations globally. In the U.S., only 70% of children complete the recommended childhood vaccine series and 34% of adults regularly receive vaccinations for seasonal influenza.

Misinformation and antivaccine sentiments in recent years have caused resurgences of diseases that were eliminated or nearly eradicated. While COVID-19 persists, the public’s intent to vaccinate is unclear and changing. Of note, racial and ethnic minorities with higher infection susceptibility and mortality often have lower confidence and acceptance for vaccines, perpetuating chronic disparity. 

Polls, studies and social discourses on vaccine receptivity have generated vast interest and data, but outcomes vary. Without purposefully synthesized information, policymakers and health authorities are left with incomplete knowledge of the contextual factors and societal pulse for effective policy formulation and implementation, rendering herd immunity challenging.

Project Description

The objectives of this project team are to:

  1. discover how vaccine acceptance for COVID-19 and other diseases change over time
  2. compare individual, societal and vaccine-specific barriers and motivators
  3. analyze language framing and data presentation influences

By tracking changes in attitudes and subsequent behaviors via both primary and secondary data, the composite knowledge aims to offer policymakers comprehensive, up-to-date information and recommendations for planning, executing and monitoring immunization programs and communication campaigns for the current pandemic and future health threats.

The team will start with a literature review of academic journals and official documents to build a foundation of knowledge. The team will complement this work with environmental scans and social listening for trending public opinions and sentiments. Team members will apply quantitative, qualitative and AI methods to examine the determinants of vaccine hesitancy and identify triggers that could sway attitudes or receptivity. They will investigate both how information consumers access and utilize data to form perceptions and how information producers acquire, interpret, and present data that may influence our beliefs and behaviors.

The data and insights obtained will be integrated, illustrated and shared on a website with dashboards and infographics, supplemented with synthesized reports and a collection of guidelines and communication strategies. Based on the study results, the team will discuss policy implications regarding vaccine access and prioritization equity, health insurance payment system, pharmaceutical innovation and pricing, or government welfare models. 

Anticipated Outputs

Vaccine hesitancy-receptivity reports; policy and communications recommendations; interactive website; conference presentations; peer-reviewed publications; data for future research and funding proposals

Student Opportunities

Ideally, this project team will include 2-3 graduate students and 3-5 undergraduate students. Interested students will likely be from computer science, information science and studies, psychology, statistics, public policy, global health, visual and media studies, economics, political science, business, medicine and nursing. Web design, coding experience and the desire to learn data visualization and social listening would be beneficial. Students should be curious, creative in finding solutions, open to understand and accept (not necessarily agree with) different opinions, pay attention to current events and societal issues, and have the capacity to absorb and integrate knowledge from multiple disciplines.

Students will learn practical tools and skills to support the team’s exploration, such as survey and web designs, query techniques and software for data collection/crawling, coding, analysis and visualization. Team members will witness and evaluate how different disciplines intersect and impact one another, acquire an array of skills and contribute across many components to gain a full experience of the research process.

The team will meet weekly. Faculty and advisors will also hold individual mentoring sessions to encourage professional and personal growth. There will be team-building activities throughout the year. Students will be assigned both independent and small-group tasks. While one student will be appointed project manager, students with expertise in particular areas will be task captain to teach and support others and lead the effort. Graduate or advanced students may serve as project manager and assist mentoring undergraduates. They may choose to develop subprojects leading to a thesis/dissertation or future grants. The team will have opportunities to interact directly with policymakers and field experts and executives for valuable networking. 

Selected students may have the opportunity to travel for conferences.

In the optional summer component, students will work 15 hours/week for 4-6 weeks in May and June 2021.


Summer 2021 – Summer 2022

  • Summer 2021 (optional): Background research and systematic review; connect with field experts and potential partners; IRB training and preparation; software workshops
  • Fall 2021: Literature review; design online survey and focus group discussion guide; complete IRB approval; recruit and screen participants; data collection; learn web design and social listening
  • Spring 2022: Compile and analyze data; conduct second survey; launch website and continue updating; draft and revise manuscript and reports; conference presentation; submit for publication
  • Summer 2022 (optional): Field work internships in the community or with NGOs


Academic credit available for fall and spring semesters; summer funding available


Image: MTA’s Heroic Frontline Workers Begin COVID-19 Vaccinations, by Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York, licensed under CC BY 2.0

MTA’s Heroic Frontline Workers Begin COVID-19 Vaccinations.

Team Leaders

  • Cheryl Lin, John Hope Franklin Center, Duke Policy and Organizational Management Program, Markets and Management Studies, International Studies
  • James Michener, School of Medicine-Family Medicine and Community Health
  • Pikuei Tu, John Hope Franklin Center, Duke Policy and Organizational Management Program, Markets and Management Studies, International Studies

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Susan Kline, School of Medicine-Pediatrics
  • John Paat, School of Medicine-Medicine: General Internal Medicine
  • Ann Reed, School of Medicine-Pediatrics

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Laura Bayzle, The Link Group
  • Leslie Beitsch, Department of Behavioral Sciences and Social Medicine - FSU
  • Mike McTaggart, Global Digital
  • Jewel Mullen, Dell Medical School-UT-Austin