School and Preparedness Officials' Perspectives on Social Distancing Practices to Reduce Influenza Transmission During a Pandemic

Considerations to Guide Future Work

Published in: Preventive Medicine Reports, Volume 14 (June 2019). doi: 10.1016/j.pmedr.2019.100871

Posted on RAND.org on March 31, 2020

by Laura J. Faherty, Heather L. Schwartz, Faruque Ahmed, Yenlik Zheteyeva, Amra Uzicanin, Lori Uscher-Pines

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The objective of this qualitative study was to explore the perspectives of school and preparedness officials on the feasibility of implementing a range of social distancing practices to reduce influenza transmission during a pandemic. In the summer of 2017, we conducted 36 focus groups by teleconference and webinar lasting 90 min with school and preparedness stakeholders from across the United States. We identified and characterized 11 themes arising from the focus group protocol's domains as well as unanticipated emergent themes. These themes were: the need for effective stakeholder communication, the importance of partnering for buy-in, the role of social distancing in heightening anxiety, ensuring student safety, how practices work in combination, challenges with enforcement, lack of funding for school nurses, differing views about schools' role in protecting public health, the need for education and community engagement to ensure consistent implementation, the need for collaborative decision-making, and tension between standardizing public health guidance and adapting to local contexts. Addressing several crosscutting considerations can increase the likelihood that social distancing practices will be feasible and acceptable to school stakeholders.

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