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Identifying Opinion Leaders

Posted by on June 30th, 2008 Posted in: Research Reads

Valente, T.W.; Pumpuang, P. “Identifying Opinion Leaders to Promote Behavior Change.” Health Education & Behavior 2007; 34:881.

This article begins by listing how opinion leaders can help with health promotion efforts:

  • Provide entree and legitimation
  • Provide communication from their communities
  • Act as role models for behavior change
  • Convey health messages
  • Contribute to sustainability after a specific program has ended

Programs that use peer opinion leaders are generally more effective. Opinion leaders influence behavior in their communities through awareness-raising, persuasion, norm establishment/reinforcement, and resource leveraging. Opinion leaders are also known as champions, lay health advisors, health advocates, promotoras, behavior change agents, peer leaders, and community leaders. The best methods for identifying opinion leaders will vary depending on a project’s characteristics and setting; this article presents ten methods:

  1. Celebrities (recruit people who are nationally, regionally, or locally known)
  2. Self-selection (solicit volunteers)
  3. Self-identification (administer questionnaire with a leadership scale)
  4. Staff selected (project staff select leaders based on community observation)
  5. Positional (community members who occupy leadership positions)
  6. Judge’s ratings (knowledgeable community members identify leaders)
  7. Expert identification (trained ethnographers study community)
  8. Snowball (ask who people go to for advice, then interview them in turn)
  9. Sample sociometric (randomly selected respondents nominate leaders; those receiving frequent nominations are chosen)
  10. Sociometric (all respondents are interviewed and those receiving frequent nominations are selected)

Ideally, a health promotion project would use multiple methods to find and select opinion leaders. Once they are identified and recruited, training and support are essential.

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This project is funded by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), National Institutes of Health (NIH) under cooperative agreement number UG4LM012343 with the University of Washington.

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