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Luther College professor helps develop “Clean and Contain” test

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DECORAH, Iowa (WXOW) - While we await a COVID-19 vaccine, regulations like social distancing, cleaning and wearing face coverings will likely remain in effect. But, how do we know whether those efforts are proving effective?

Psychology professor Loren Toussaint, Ph.D., from Luther College in Decorah, IA teamed up with three colleagues around the country to prove whether the "Clean and Contain" scale is effective to rate health practices.

"There has been virtually no attention to developing a valid test to assess who is acting in healthy ways and who is not during a pandemic. We lack adequate viral testing, but we also lack sufficient behavioral testing measures," said Toussaint. "We know what predicts people's usage of things like seat belts, bike helmets and life vests, but we don't know that much about what may cause someone to wear a mask, clean the door knobs or keep strict distance with others outside their home."

Toussaint, along with Alyssa D. Cheadle, Ph.D., Hope College; Jesse Fox, Ph.D., Stetson University; and David R. Williams, Ph.D., M.P.H., Harvard University, developed the measure, which consists of nine questions asking how often one completes specific behaviors. Responses were based on a five-point scale with choices: 1 = Never, 2 = Sometimes, 3 = About half the time, 4 = Most of the time, and 5 = Always.

"Measuring and understanding people's behavior is key to helping them change it. That is why we developed this measure—to help us understand and thereby inform healthy infection-prevention behavior across the communities, states and nations that are so severely affected by the pandemic," said Toussaint. "It is important to note that a scale like this measures your tendencies to do these things, so it doesn’t have to ask about every possible behavior. The higher your score, the more likely you are to do lots of healthy things to prevent infection and/or spread of the coronavirus."

"Clean and Contain: Initial Development of a Measure of Infection Prevention Behaviors during the COVID-19 Pandemic" by Toussaint and his colleagues was published in the "Annals of Behavioral Medicine" in August.

For assistance using the scale or interpreting survey data, please contact Loren Toussaint at:

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