Date of Conferral
Lyme disease (LD) is emerging as one of the major global health challenges of the 21st century. Although data on the diagnosis and treatment of LD is available, research focusing on people's perceptions of LD appears to be limited. Because individual perceptions can significantly affect compliance with preventative measures, such data are critical for the design and successful implementation of interventions to control the disease. The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to explore risk perceptions and knowledge of LD among residents of a county in the U.S. state of New Jersey where the disease is prevalent. The health belief model and the social ecological model served as the theoretical foundation for the study. Research questions centered on the perceptions of the study participants regarding their risk of contracting LD and the factors that may influence or interfere with preventive behaviors against ticks. A convenience sample of 11 individuals, aged 18–55 years, participated in a focus group discussion. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis and participant responses revealed that information dissemination methods regarding LD were ineffective. Participants believed that lack of knowledge on LD was the main barrier to protective behaviors. Participants who perceived no risk from LD reported that they were not taking preventive measures against tick bites. Dissemination of study results through presentations to public health departments and LD organizations in New Jersey may benefit the public health sector by furthering understanding of the public's risk perceptions and knowledge about LD. Positive social change implications include increased awareness of LD and improved risk communications of the disease.