Children forgotten in hot cars: a hybrid mental models approach for improving public health messaging
Williams, Castle Adam
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On average, in the United States, 37 young children die every year due to vehicular heatstroke. While various governmental and child safety advocacy groups have worked to raise awareness about these tragedies, rigorous studies have yet to be conducted that examine the current understanding and effectiveness of public health and child advocacy group messaging. This thesis uses a hybrid mental models approach, using structured questions guided by the Health Belief Model to identify discrepancies that may exist between experts’ and parents’/caregivers’ knowledge surrounding the topic of children forgotten in hot cars. A comparative analysis revealed two key differences between these mental models: 1) their primary source of information and 2) an increased risk attributed to lifestyle factors. Finally, this thesis discusses the applicability of these results for future public health messaging, to emphasize that all parents/caregivers of young children are equally susceptible to forgetting their child in a hot car.