Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department

Mass Communications

Major Professor

Kelli Burns, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kimberly Walker, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kelly Werder, Ph.D.


coronavirus, cues to action, health behavior change, relationship theory, public health communication


In the context of the most severe pandemic in over 100 years, this study examined public health behavior and public health messaging using the health belief model (HBM) and organization-public relationships (OPR) as frameworks. The study employed a cross-sectional survey of students (N = 288) and employees (N = 203) at a large public university in the southeastern United States. First, the study empirically tested the components of the HBM as determinants of engaging in public health behaviors meant to slow or prevent the spread of COVID-19 and found all components of the model to be significantly related to engaging in the health behaviors. Next, the study looked at the university’s COVID-19 public health messaging. While findings indicated there was no significant relationship between the university’s public health messaging and the study population’s on-campus engagement in COVID-19 health behaviors, the relationship between the university’s messaging and OPR quality was found to be statistically significant. Additionally, findings indicated that OPR quality was significantly related to engaging in the COVID-19 health behaviors.