Grant to help Gallo debunk contraceptive myths in Kingston, Jamaica

August 22, 2017

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Maria Gallo, PhD, associate professor in The Ohio State University College of Public Health’s Division of Epidemiology, received a $120,000 grant from the Society of Family Planning to help educate adult women about contraceptive options in Kingston, Jamaica.

Gallo and the research team hope to debunk myths and confusion surrounding contraceptive safety. Contraceptive methods often go unused because of false concerns about the side effects and health risks associated with them, according to Gallo.

“Debunking these myths can be difficult as people have cognitive functions that render misinformation ‘sticky’ and resistant to correction,” Gallo said. “Attempts to retract misinformation often are ineffective in memory updating and, paradoxically, can strengthen misbeliefs via several types of backfire effects.”

The study will include 220 adult, reproductive-age women in Kingston who do not want to become pregnant in the next 12 months and are not currently using long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARC).

One group will watch a short motion-graphic video debunking myths about contraception methods (intervention group), and the other group will watch a video about nutrition (control group). Each group will then receive an option for routine contraceptive counseling following standard care.

“Our primary aim is to determine whether LARC initiation is higher among women in the intervention group compared to those in the control group after three months of follow-up,” Gallo said.

Recent advances in cognitive psychology have produced solid strategies for debunking myths surrounding proven prevention methods, Gallo explained, citing a recent randomized trial that succeeded in reducing uncertainty about vaccines.

“We hope to extend this evidence to the contraceptive field by testing the effectiveness of a novel video – grounded in cognitive psychology – for overcoming the factors that cause women to maintain their misbeliefs about the safety and side effects of long-acting contraception (LARC),” Gallo said.

The research study is a collaborative effort with Gallo’s colleagues in Kingston: Tina Hylton-Kong, MBBS, of the Epidemiology Research and Training Unit; Natalie Medley-Singh, MBBS, DM, of the department of obstetrics, gynecology and child health; and Althea Bailey, MPH, of the department of community health and psychiatry at The University of the West Indies at Mona; and with Markus Steiner, PhD, senior epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and director of the Gates-funded Sino-implant Initiative at FHI 360.

This study is also a first-time collaboration between Gallo and Ohio State’s Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design (ACCAD). Maria Palazzi, MA, ACCAD’s director and professor of design, will recruit a graduate student to produce the motion graphics videos to be used in the study.

“Dr. Palazzi has been enormously helpful in helping me figure out how to create the videos,” Gallo said. “I hope that this is the start of a fruitful collaboration between our groups.” 

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About The Ohio State University College of Public Health

The Ohio State University College of Public Health is a leader in educating students, creating new knowledge through research, and improving the livelihoods and well-being of people in Ohio and beyond.  The College’s divisions include biostatistics, environmental health sciences, epidemiology, health behavior and health promotion, and health services management and policy.   It is ranked 19th among all colleges of public health in the U.S. by U.S. News & World Report, and also includes the top 10-ranked MHA degree program.  The College provides leadership and expertise for Ohio and the world through its Center for Health Outcomes, Policy and Evaluation Studies (HOPES), Center for Public Health Practice, and the NCI-funded Center of Excellence in Regulatory Tobacco Science (CERTS).