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Rehfuess, Eva A.; Movsisyan, Ani; Pfadenhauer, Lisa M.; Burns, Jacob; Ludolph, Ramona; Michie, Susan; Strahwald, Brigitte (2023): Public health and social measures during health emergencies such as the COVID‐19 pandemic: An initial framework to conceptualize and classify measures. Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses, 17 (3). ISSN 1750-2640

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Influenza Resp Viruses - 2023 - Rehfuess - Public health and social measures during health emergencies such as the COVID‐19.pdf

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Abstract

Background
Public health and social measures (PHSM) intend to reduce the transmission of infectious diseases and to reduce the burden on health systems, economies and societies. During the COVID-19 pandemic, PHSM have been selected, combined and implemented in a variable manner and inconsistently categorized in policy trackers. This paper presents an initial conceptual framework depicting how PHSM operate in a complex system, enabling a wide-reaching description of these measures and their intended and unintended outcomes.

Methods
In a multi-stage development process, we combined (i) a complexity perspective and systems thinking; (ii) literature on existing COVID-19 PHSM frameworks, taxonomies and policy trackers; (iii) expert input and (iv) application to school and international travel measures.

Results
The initial framework reflects our current understanding of how PHSM are intended to achieve transmission-related outcomes in a complex system, offering visualizations, definitions and worked examples. First, PHSM operate through two basic mechanisms, that is, reducing contacts and/or making contacts safer. Second, PHSM are defined not only by the measures themselves but by their stringency and application to specific populations and settings. Third, PHSM are critically influenced by contextual factors. The framework provides a tool for structured thinking and further development, rather than a ready-to-use tool for practice.

Conclusions
This conceptual framework seeks to facilitate coordinated, interdisciplinary research on PHSM effectiveness, impact and implementation; enable consistent, coherent PHSM monitoring and evaluation; and contribute to evidence-informed decision-making on PHSM implementation, adaptation and de-implementation. We expect this framework to be modified and refined over time.

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