We study factors that impact individuals’ health decision-making in order to better inform health messaging and aid disease prevention. 

To do this, we use behavioural science frameworks to study individuals’ knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and preferences about various health-related decisions. We actively engage with public health agencies to translate these scientific findings into effective policy and interventions.  

Our primary framework to understand decision-making is the Precaution Adoption Process Model (PAPM), a stage-based model which considers the process of deciding to, or not to engage in a behaviour. Using this model, we have gained insight into how different groups approach health decision-making. For example, in a longitudinal study, we found that parents who reported that they had “decided not” to vaccinate their children against HPV were more “rigid” and less likely to move towards “decided to” than those who were initially “undecided” (Tatar, et al., 2019).

Through this model and other behavioural framework, we investigate the factors influencing uptake of vaccines, engagement with screening programs, and changes in health decision-making. Currently, we are conducting the following research projects:

Investigation of the attitudes, beliefs, and knowledge of Canadian women about upcoming changes to cervical cancer screening guidelines: 

The Pap test has been the primary means to detect cervical lesions that may progress to cervical cancer. This method requires a sample to be taken from the cervix and analyzed for the presence of abnormal cells. The HPV DNA test represents a significant innovation in cervical cancer prevention. Since almost all cervical abnormalities are caused by oncogenic forms of HPV, this test involves looking for HPV DNA in cervical samples and provides much greater sensitivity than the Pap test. Additionally, it safely enables larger intervals between screenings than the Pap test, and even an increased age of first screening. Despite this, the introduction of the HPV DNA test has been met with backlash in many nations because of a lack of communication between public health agencies and women. As all Canadian provinces prepare to introduce this test as the primary method for cervical cancer screening, we plan to address this issue by surveying 3650 Canadian women about their knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and intentions regarding screening with the HPV DNA test. Understanding Canadian women’s perspectives will inform targeted interventions and messaging to encourage participation in upcoming HPV test-based screening programs.


Griffin-Mathieu, G., Haward, B., Tatar, O., Zhu, P., Perez, S., Shapiro, G. K., McBride, E., Thompson, E. L., Smith, L. W., Lofters, A. K., Daley, E. M., Guichon, J. R., Waller, J., Steben, M., Decker, K. M., Mayrand, M.-H., Brotherton, J. M. L., Ogilvie, G. S., Zimet, G. D., Norris, T., Rosberger, Z. (2022). Ensuring a successful transition from Cytology to HPV-based primary cervical cancer screening in Canada by investigating the psychosocial correlates of women’s intentions: Protocol for an observational study. JMIR Research Protocols, 11(6), e38917. 

Zhu, P., Tatar, O., Haward, B., Griffin-Mathieu, G., Perez, S., Smith, L., Brotherton, J., Ogilvie, G., & Rosberger, Z. Assessing Canadian women’s preferences for cervical cancer screening: A brief report. Frontiers in Public Health, 2403. 

Testing the efficacy of an altruism-eliciting video promoting COVID-19 vaccination in young adults:

Young adults have been a difficult population to reach during the current COVID-19 pandemic. While they typically experience less severe consequences from infection with COVID-19, they are more likely to spread the virus. Furthermore, in Canada, young adults lag behind other age groups in vaccine coverage. The Public Health Agency of Canada has identified this as a critical issue in containing the pandemic. Drawing upon research from our lab and others, altruism, or the desire to help others without necessarily receiving personal benefit, is an effective motivator for preventive health behaviors and vaccine uptake. It is a particularly appropriate motivator for COVID-19, as public health agencies urge vaccine uptake to increase population immunity. We developed a 2-minute altruism-based video, urging vaccination against COVID-19 to protect others. In a randomized controlled trial, we tested a two minute altruism eliciting video against a text-based control in order to evaluate its impact of COVID-19 vaccine intentions in young adults. The results of the project will help to inform strategies for encouraging young adults to receive vaccination against COVID-19, and current and future vaccine-preventable diseases.

Watch the video!

In light of the emergence of booster vaccination, we are also conducting two extensions of this initial study. First, funded by the Canadian Immunization Research Network (CIRN), we are holding several focus groups with young adults of different COVID-19 vaccination statuses to evaluate the video in the context of COVID-19 vaccination in 2022. Qualitative analysis of these focus groups using thematic analysis will help to illuminate how young adults currently view the situation with COVID, their response to altruism-focused public health messaging, and their opinions about and suggestions for vaccination related messaging. Following this, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, we will develop a new, booster vaccine-focused video and test it in another randomized controlled trial. Results from this study should help to guide how public health authorities should approach COVID-19 vaccine messaging as we adjust to a “new normal” with COVID-19.


Zhu, P., Tatar, O., Griffin-Mathieu, G., Perez, S., Haward, B., Zimet, G., Tunis, M., Dubé, È., & Rosberger, Z. (2022). The Efficacy of a Brief, Altruism-Eliciting Video Intervention in Enhancing COVID-19 Vaccination Intentions Among a Population-Based Sample of Younger Adults: Randomized Controlled Trial. JMIR Public Health Surveillance, 8(5), e37328. 

A pilot study to explore the preferences of young adults for COVID-19 preventive health measures and vaccination:

As the pandemic has continued, young adults have become less likely to comply to preventive health measures recommended and mandated by public health authorities and the government. Additionally, with the emergence of vaccines they have shown lower uptake than older age groups, even as the vaccine has become widely available. This is despite the fact this group is a crucial population to target to contain the pandemic. To try to better understand and tailor policies and messages to this group, it may be important to understand their preferences for measures and vaccination. We are currently analyzing data from a sample of 266 Canadian young adults regarding their preferences for various public health measures (e.g., masking, physical distancing, travel restrictions) and vaccination (where to receive, how many doses, motivation for receiving). We used Best-Worst Scaling to assess preferences, a method that reduces cognitive biases associated with typical ranking or multiple-choice assessments of preference. The results of this study can help to inform targets for public health messaging and identify policies with high acceptability for young adults.


Tatar, O., Haward, B., Zhu, P., Griffin-Mathieu, G., Perez, S., Zimet, G., & Rosberger, Z. (2022). Using Best-Worst Scaling to investigate younger adult Canadians’ preferences for COVID-19 vaccination and public health measures: An observational study. Preventive Medicine Reports, 26, 101755.