Non-allergenic cat, Conducting a Literature Review

ChuckLohreFostering Behavior Change

Hi Green Cincinnati Education Advocacy,

In 2006 Time magazine listed as one of its inventions of the year, a cat. You are likely imagining, “How could a cat be listed as one of Time’s inventions of the year?” I’ll get to that in a moment, but let me first mention that I have severe allergies to dogs and cats. These allergies meant that having a dog or a cat in our home was not possible. However, I had promised our daughters that should there ever be a genuinely non-allergenic dog or cat; we would get one. Enter Timemagazine listing a cat as one of its inventions of the year.

In 2006 Time reported that a company based in San Diego had produced a truly non-allergenic cat through extensive testing and selective breeding. Along with many others, we lined up to purchase one of these quite expensive cats. When the cat arrived, I was amazed that I had virtually no allergic reaction to it. Maia was wonderful and enriched our lives for 14 years. While we all thought Maia was special, she was not an invention of the year, special.

As I would learn several years after Maia joined our family, the San Diego company was a scam. The man who ran the company, Simon Brodie, had been involved in a string of frauds, but this was his most audacious. So audacious that he was the focus of an ABC News special, which documented that he was purchasing everyday cats from breeders and then selling them at ridiculous prices to people who had severe allergies (you can view the ABC report here).

I was initially livid with Simon, but I am also strangely thankful to him. By sheer luck, Simon sent us a Siberian Forest Cat. Siberians naturally produce low levels of Fel D1, the chemical which is responsible for most cat allergies. We lost Maia to cancer in March. This weekend we welcomed to our home a Siberian kitten that we named “Hazel,” after the main character in the wonderful book, Watership Down. In the book, Hazel is intelligent, considerate, and moral — completely the antithesis of Simon.

Hazel getting to know her new home.

On to this week’s Minute . . .

Conducting a Literature Review

Since the barriers and benefits to environmental, health, and safety behaviors are often activity-specific, the first step in designing a community-based social marketing strategy is to review relevant articles and reports. Before conducting your literature review, you should be clear on your mandate. If your position involves promoting mass transit over driving to work, then your literature search is already well defined. However, if you have a broad mandate, such as promoting active lifestyles, you will need to clarify your mandate before proceeding with your search.

There are four sources of information that you will want to include in your literature review.

  1. Thumb through trade magazines and newsletters for related articles. Often these articles are summaries of more extensive reports and can provide good leads for where to search for in-depth information.
  2. Discover what reports have been written on the topic by other agencies. These reports are often difficult to obtain but are well worth the effort. Begin by searching for organizations that act as online information clearinghouses for the behavior you wish to promote. If a relevant clearinghouse does not exist, email several well-connected individuals to trace down reports that have been prepared for other organizations. In addition, post requests for barrier and benefit research to the cbsm.com discussion forums.
  3. Search the databases of your local university for related academic articles. Many of the articles that will be of interest to you can now be found online and are sometimes free. When you conduct these searches, pay particular attention to recent review articles that synthesize the current state of knowledge on the topic. Finally, at the Fostering Sustainable and Healthy Behavior website (cbsm.com), you will find a searchable database of academic articles on environment, health and safety behaviors.
  4. Once you have reviewed the reports and academic articles that you have found, call the authors of studies that are of particular interest. Often these individuals will have pre-press publications that you will not be able to find elsewhere. In addition, they may be currently engaged in research that can further inform your efforts. Academics can be a particularly useful resource for tracking down research articles and reports that you may have missed in your previous searches. Mention the studies you have found and ask if there are others that you should be aware of. They may well be willing to email you a listing of relevant articles. Finally, ask if you can call back later in your project to obtain further advice. Cultivating a good relationship with an academic who works in your area can assist you not only with keeping abreast of current literature, but also with issues related to analyzing your barrier and benefit research and designing and evaluating your project.

If you find the Minute helpful, please consider sharing it with colleagues. I’m delivering virtual workshops in October for Australia and New Zealand (learn more here). I am currently planning fall community-based social marketing virtual workshops for North America. Click hereto be alerted when we announce the North America trainings. I am also planning virtual workshops for Europe and Africa for the fall. Click here to be notified when we announce the Europe/Africa workshops. If you are interested in hosting a workshop, learn more here.

Thanks for reading this week. Take care and stay safe.

Best, Doug

Doug McKenzie-Mohr, Ph.D.
​Founder, Community-Based Social Marketing
Author, Fostering Sustainable Behavior

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