Is targeting the solution? Evidence from an experiment on radon risk communication
While prolonged exposure to radon is one of the most significant risk factors for lung cancer, public awareness and willingness to mitigate the risk are typically low, even in regions with high radon concentrations. Given this, it has been voiced that health protection agencies should follow a more targeted risk communication approach (Perko & Turcanu, 2020). While targeted and tailored risk communication approaches have been shown to be successful, especially regarding so-called lifestyle risks (smoking, unhealthy diet, etc.), the effects of targeted radon risk communication from a health protection agency perspective have not been analyzed thus far. To this end, we conducted an online experiment. Four web pages were created targeting four stakeholder groups: (1) tenants and (2) house owners in municipalities with high radon concentrations, (3) tenants and (4) house owners in areas adjacent to municipalities with high radon concentrations. The content of the web pages was designed based on the German Federal Office for Radiation Protection’s (BfS) materials. Participants (n = 293 valid cases) were randomly assigned either to the experimental or control group. We assessed differences between the stakeholder groups regarding information comprehension, risk perception, behavioral intention, perceived efficacy of measures against radon, and (personal) uncertainty regarding radon. In a MANOVA including all five dependent variables, the null hypothesis that there are no differences regarding these variables between the stakeholder groups could not be rejected (Wilk’s Λ = 0.9980, p = .99). Given an achieved statistical power of 1-β = .93 for effects of medium size according to Cohen, it is quite unlikely that medium or large effects can be achieved by targeting risk communication to the stakeholder groups described above, given our data. As the statistical power to detect small effects was low (1-β = .21), these cannot be precluded. Potential reasons for this finding and implications for risk communication practice are discussed.
Dametto, Diego; Oertel, Britta; Pölzl-Viol, Christiane; Böhmert, Christoph