RIVM advises government authorities to involve ‘key persons’ in formulating policy for current and future pandemics. These key persons could include professionals as well as volunteers who play an active role in education, healthcare, sports, arts and culture, or social work. Results from RIVM research show that these individuals played a key role in ensuring an ongoing focus on social well-being and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the limitations. 

These key persons also promoted and facilitated implementation of the coronavirus measures. In particular, they assisted groups that were struggling harder after certain measures entered into effect. The researchers indicate the importance of establishing partnerships between these key persons and the government well in advance, in the early stages of pandemic preparedness planning. This increases equal opportunities for health among different groups of people. There are various ways to involve key persons, for example by assembling an advisory council. 

Added value of key persons during COVID-19 pandemic 

As a result of the coronavirus measures, the quality of social interaction was under pressure. People lost contact with others, but some also lost their jobs or other forms of security. Key persons are close to the community and often trusted by many others. This enables them to take action quickly when people need assistance. That position allowed them to ensure that people also remained connected to others during restrictive coronavirus measures. Examples included encouraging digital consultations or coming up with ideas for activities adapted to the measures. They also offered practical, social and emotional support. In doing so, these key individuals played a crucial role in people’s lives.

About the study

For the study at hand, RIVM interviewed 95 people between October 2020 and August 2021. Their dilemmas and solutions were analysed and published on an RIVM page about COVID-19 and behavioural science in practice (in Dutch).