Article Text

Understanding public preferences and trade-offs for government responses during a pandemic: a protocol for a discrete choice experiment in the UK
  1. Mesfin G Genie1,
  2. Luis Enrique Loría-Rebolledo1,
  3. Shantini Paranjothy2,
  4. Daniel Powell3,
  5. Mandy Ryan1,
  6. Ruben Andreas Sakowsky1,
  7. Verity Watson1
  1. 1Health Economics Research Unit, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK
  2. 2Health Data Science Research Centre, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK
  3. 3Health Psychology, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Mesfin G Genie; mesfin.genie{at}


Introduction Social distancing and lockdown measures are among the main government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. These measures aim to limit the COVID-19 infection rate and reduce the mortality rate of COVID-19. Given we are likely to see local lockdowns until a treatment or vaccine for COVID-19 is available, and their effectiveness depends on public acceptability, it is important to understand public preference for government responses.

Methods and analysis Using a discrete choice experiment (DCE), this study will investigate the public’s preferences for pandemic responses in the UK. Attributes (and levels) are based on: (1) lockdown measures described in policy documents; (2) literature on preferences for lockdown measures and (3) a social media analysis. Attributes include: lockdown type; lockdown length; postponement of usual non-urgent medical care; number of excess deaths; number of infections; impact on household spending and job losses. We will prepilot the DCE using virtual think aloud interviews with respondents recruited via Facebook. We will collect preference data using an online survey of 4000 individuals from across the four UK countries (1000 per country). We will estimate the relative importance of the attributes, and the trade-offs individuals are willing to make between attributes. We will test if respondents’ preferences differ based on moral attitudes (using the Moral Foundation Questionnaire), socioeconomic circumstances (age, education, economic insecurity, health status), country of residence and experience of COVID-19.

Ethics and dissemination The University of Aberdeen’s College Ethics Research Board (CERB) has approved the study (reference: CERB/2020/6/1974). We will seek CERB approval for major changes from the developmental and pilot work. Peer-reviewed papers will be submitted, and results will be presented at public health and health economic conferences nationally and internationally. A lay summary will be published on the Health Economics Research Unit blog.

  • COVID-19
  • health economics
  • infectious diseases
  • public health

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  • Contributors The writing of the protocol was led by the Health Economics Research Unit (HERU) team (MGG, MR, RAS, LEL-R and VW). Comments were provided by SP and DP.

  • Funding This project is supported by the Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorate and the University of Aberdeen.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.

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