Could motivational interviewing improve contact tracing?

Woman In Mask With Mobile Phone Checking Into Venue Scanning QR Code During Health Pandemic

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Experts from the University of Manchester will lead a new project to develop motivational interviewing training for COVID-19 contact tracers.

It is the first in the world to look at how motivational interviewing, a conversation style that has been proven to support behavioural change, can support contact tracers.

The three-month project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, as part of UK Research and Innovation’s rapid response to COVID-19.

Helping COVID-19 contact tracers do their job

The research is led by the Manchester Institute of Education at the University of Manchester, in partnership with Wigan Council’s Test, Track and Trace cell.

Dr Cathy Atkinson, University of Manchester, said:

We know that while contact tracing is a national priority, it does not always have the best outcomes in terms of leading to members of the public following guidance and therefore infection control.

Motivational interviewing may be key to improving contact tracing practice, allowing contact tracers to develop their interpersonal skills, and feel more confident, comfortable and ultimately effective in their role.

Motivating the public to self-isolate

During the first phase the researchers will work with contact tracing teams in Wigan to

  • understand the challenges and pressures of the role
  • find out what is supportive and helpful with their conversations with members of the public
  • produce bespoke interview training that is tailored to the needs of contact tracers.

The training materials will be made available to contact tracers across the UK, helping to improve rates of self-isolation and contact tracing.

Professor Kate Ardern, Director of Public Health, Wigan Council, said:

It’s great to be partnering the University of Manchester in this important research as we believe this training will have a really positive impact on the effectiveness of contact tracing.

Last updated: 19 April 2021

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