Social networks (SNs) were found to influence health behaviors and choices related to health. During school attendance adolescents establish and develop ties, creating their network. At the same time schools represent ideal places in which health promotion interventions could be implemented. We studied the relationship between students' SNs and the Knowledge, Attitudes and Behaviors (KAB) toward vaccinations in a school-based health promotion pilot project.
‘VacciniAmo Le Scuole’ project was performed in 4 Italian secondary schools, in collaboration with each Local Health Authorities (LHA). Students fulfilled a questionnaire before and after they attended a health promotion intervention in order to collect data on demographics, knowledge about vaccinations, their immunization status and students’ SN. Vaccination coverage was obtained by LHA. SN analysis techniques were used to explore the structural properties of pupils’ friendship during and after school time.
680 pupils fulfilled the questionnaire. The average degree (number of ties) was 8.6 within the school and 5.6 after-school networks. It was correlated (Pearson test) both with the knowledge level after intervention and responsiveness toward vaccinations both within the network during (Rho=0.17; p < 0.05; Rho=0.10; p < 0.05) and after (Rho=0.22; p < 0.05; Rho=0.11; p < 0.05) school time. Closeness was found inversely associated with post intervention knowledge and final project judgement both within school network (Rho=-0.21; p < 0.05; Rho=-0.22; p < 0.05) and after school network (Rho=-0.24; p < 0.05; Rho=-0.25; p < 0.05).
Since students’ KAB toward vaccinations can be influenced by their networks, analysing SN can help to targeting better preventive strategies and health promotion interventions. School (during and after school time) could play an important role in promoting vaccination KAB.
Deeper knowledge about students’ SN could improve the effectiveness of vaccination campaigns