HEALTH

Study: Consumers equate high cost of flu shot to low risk of getting the flu

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW ORLEANS — Consumers measure the risk of contracting the flu to the price of their flu shot, according to research out of Tulane University released Friday. 

The study found that consumers make judgments about their risk of catching any illness based on the cost of its medication. The higher the price, the less they think they’re at risk, stated co-author Janet Schwartz, assistant professor of marketing at Tulane’s A.B. Freeman School of Business.

“Your chance of winning at blackjack has nothing to do with how big the payout is, and most people know that,” Schwartz said. “But when it comes to understanding what prices reflect for medicine, people look at the price, and they do think that it somehow tells them something about their own risk of getting a disease. In reality, those two factors are completely independent.”

Researchers conducted several surveys to gauge consumers’ reactions to different medications based on cost and perceived risk. For example, they presented different health messages about getting a flu shot, emphasizing individual risk in one scenario and the larger public health risks in another. They told some that the vaccine cost $25 and others $125. Even though all were told the cost would be covered by insurance, those in the high-price group felt that they were at a lower risk of getting the flu.

Researchers found that consumers instinctively believed that important medication like flu vaccine should be affordably priced to be widely accessible. When priced high and perceivably out of reach for some, consumers inferred that the medicine must not be all that necessary and the risk of getting the illness must be lower. 

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CDC launches official influenza app for health professionals

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday announced the launch of its CDC Influenza application for clinicians and other healthcare professionals on the Apple platform. The app makes it easy to access CDC’s latest recommendations and influenza activity updates on an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch, the agency stated.

An Android support will be added in a future update, CDC noted. 

Content updates automatically with an Internet connection. Users will be able to view updated information on national flu activity; find influenza vaccination recommendations endorsed by CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices; obtain information on diagnosis and treatment of influenza, including antiviral treatment recommendations by CDC and the ACIP; obtain information on laboratory testing for influenza; find CDC recommendations on influenza infection control; view videos of CDC subject matter experts discussing influenza topics; and order official CDC designed print products for posting in the workplace or distributing to patients.


FOR MORE COVERAGE OF THE FLU EPIDEMIC CLICK HERE

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Harvard Men’s Health Watch recommends topical analgesics for acute joint pain

BY Michael Johnsen

BOSTON — Topical pain relievers may be better suited for joint pain, according to a report published in the January 2013 issue of the Harvard Men’s Health Watch

"Topical pain relievers can be very helpful for the more superficial joints like the knees, ankles, feet, elbows and hands," stated Rosalyn Nguyen, a clinical instructor in physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School. "In those areas, the medication can penetrate closer to the joint."

The source of pain usually determines if a topical pain reliever is appropriate. For a localized problem with just one joint causing the pain, there’s no need for medication to travel throughout the body, Nguyen noted. A topical analgesic isn’t that helpful when pain emanates across an extended area, like the lower back.

Nguyen recommended trying a prescription topical analgesic, such as diclofenac gel. However, for patients looking for over-the-counter pain relief, Nguyen recommended Icy Hot or Bengay, which temporarily masks pain with a sensation of coolness or heat. 

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