Understanding risk perceptions and responses of the public and health care professionals toward Clostridium difficile: a qualitative interpretive description study

Emma Burnett (Lead / Corresponding author), Joanne Corlett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The occurrence of Clostridium difficile infection is a major health-related risk. How the public and health care professionals perceive and respond to a health-related risk is shaped by socially and contextually structured evaluations and interpretations. Risk perceptions and responses are context dependent and therefore need to be understood within the context in which they are perceived and experienced.

Methods: This interpretive description study used 8 public focus groups (39 participants) and 7 health care professional focus groups (29 participants) in 2 geographic areas (an area that had experienced a C difficile outbreak and an area that had not).

Results: Both the public and health care professionals expressed varying concerns about the perceived consequences of C difficile occurring and the potential influence on emotional and physical health and well-being. In doing so, they drew upon a range of direct and indirect experiences and accounts from the media. Conceptual factors found to be important in influencing risk perceptions and responses included feelings of vulnerability, attribution of responsibility, judgments about competence, and evaluations of risk communicators.

Conclusions: If risk management and communication strategies are to achieve desired responses toward C difficile and wider risks, those responsible for managing risk must consider already established risk perceptions in addition to factors that have influenced them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-138
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Infection Control
Issue number2
Early online date24 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017


  • Health care-associated infections
  • Behavior

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