The OPTimise Platform

The OPTimise Platform aims to connect public health unit priorities with community-engaged behavioural scientists to enable public health units to draw upon behavioural science insight to complement existing approaches to support decisions and action around public health and social measures during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Deciding to take up and maintain new health protective actions involves behaviour and behaviour change, and the factors enabling or acting as barriers to informed decision and action may differ for different groups in difference places.

Partnering with members of the prioritised communities throughout the research process is essential to designing strategies that are relevant and acceptable for those communities.

What has OPTimise done so far?

In Winter 2022, we worked with Ottawa Public Health, Peel Public Health, and Toronto Public Health to each identify a priority population and COVID-19 protective behaviour (e.g., masking, vaccination). All Public Health Units (PHUs) prioritised COVID-19 vaccination (first and/or third dose). From Winter-Summer 2022, we worked to establish trusting connections with leaders in the prioritised communities to form a Community Partner Advisory Group for each city. From Fall 2022-Spring 2023, our community partners connected us with members of their communities, whom we interviewed about the factors that affected their decision to get the first/third dose of the COVID vaccine or not. Then, we used tools from behavioural science to identify barriers and enablers to getting the prioritised dose(s) of the COVID vaccine for each prioritised population. From there, in collaboration with our Community Partner Advisory Groups, we developed tailored, behavioural science-informed strategies which formed the basis of recommendations made to the PHUs for how they can integrate behavioural science-informed insights into their existing programs to continue to encourage COVID-19 vaccination in these communities.

PHU-prioritised populations and behaviours (identified in Winter 2022)
  • Ottawa: Third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and individuals who live or work near five fifth-quintile socioeconomic status neighbourhoods with low uptake
  • Peel: First and third doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and members of Eastern European communities.
  • Toronto: First and third doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and members of Black, African, and Caribbean communities who live or work near five neighbourhoods with low uptake.
  • Policy brief for Ottawa Public Health (June 2023)

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    Policy brief for Toronto Public Health (June 2023)

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    Publications from the OPTimise Platform

    • Strategies and resources used by public health units to encourage COVID-19 vaccination among priority groups: a behavioural science-informed review of three urban centres in Canada (Langmuir et al., preprint)
    • One size doesn’t fit all: methodological reflections in conducting community-based behavioural science research to tailor COVID-19 vaccination initiatives for public health priority populations (Fontaine et al., 2024)

    Project Team

    Funded by:
    the Canadian Institutes of Health Research

    Last updated: Dec 11, 2023