Published: 2020-05-21

Dr. Timothy Fung’s research on persuasive health communication guided the message design of an animated video, entitled Say Your Wish, Save a Life, for organ donation promotion. In 2016, the Hong Kong SAR Government incorporated the video into its citywide organ donation promotional campaign. Since then, a total of six government agencies, advocacy groups and a university adopted the video’s narrative-based persuasive strategy into their health promotions.

I. Background
To increase organ donation rate, encouraging people to discuss with family about their donation wish is essential because family, particularly deceased patients’ next-of-kin, plays a decisive role in organ donation procedure. The opting-in system for donation in Hong Kong requires family consent prior to extracting the deceased’s organs, regardless of the individual’s donation card indication. Exposition, which relies on information and argument for persuasion, has been Hong Kong’s common persuasive appeal for health promotion. However, to promote family discussion on organ donation, the expository strategy is inadequate because it potentially induces audience resistance. Therefore, to promote family discussion on organ donation, Dr. Fung’s research addressed the ineffective persuasive messages.

II. Research Program on Persuasive Health Communication
The findings from the three areas below of Dr. Fung’s award-winning research [4-5] on persuasive health communication were applied to use the narrative-based strategy, a form of persuasion based on storytelling, for creating the animated video (Say Your Wish, Save a Life) in 2016, and the live-action promotional video (My Family Doctor) in 2018.

(1) Formative Research – the Prelude to Deciding the Persuasive Appeal
When formulating persuasive messages, formative research can first identify the communication approach that motivates audience. For example, to design a health treatment adherence promotion, Dr. Fung’s 2014 studies [1–2] identified patients’ perceived barriers and facilitators. Built on his 2014 research, he conducted in-depth interviews in 2015 to explore the reasons why people avoid telling their families about their donation wish [3]. A key finding revealed that after the audience learned others’ successful experience, they could imitate how to share their donation wish with their family. This finding inspired storytelling for persuasive messages.

(2) Counterfactual Thinking-based Storytelling
Stories have been recognized as an effective form of communication for attitudinal and behavioral change in health promotion, but how story features and their underlying processes enable their persuasiveness remains less understood. Dr. Fung received a grant in 2015 to study how the counterfactual thinking process (a mode of thought about what might have been), as a story feature, enhances the story’s persuasiveness [6]. This award-winning study [4] showed that stories with counterfactual thinking could trigger greater anticipated regret and mental simulation, and, in turn, change the audience’s attitude and behavioral intention. As a result, to prompt the audience to imagine, if they had not expressed their donation wish, how frustrated and stressed family members might be during the decision-making process, Dr. Fung designed the animated story with the feature of counterfactual thinking.

(3) Attitude and Behavioral Change
Understanding the factors that motivate people to change their attitude and behavior is essential to develop the story content. Dr. Fung’s 2015 award-winning research examined the factors that led people to change their risky behavior [5]. A key finding indicated that emotional responses, such as uncertainty and worry, toward the health issue played an important role in the process. Therefore, in the animated video story, Dr. Fung highlighted how families deciding whether or not to donate their deceased’s organs might experience feelings of uncertainty and worry when they do not know the deceased’s donation wish.

III. Achievements
• Hong Kong Baptist University 2017 Knowledge Transfer Award

Project Title: Enhance Youngsters’ Willingness of Family Discussion on Organ Donation by Using Narrative Animation

• Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government 2018 Certificate of Commendation

Project: HKBU Organ Donation Promotion Campaign

IV. References to the research
[1] Fung, Timothy K. F., Lee, Kelvin, K. W., & Lam M. F. (2016). A formative research as the groundwork for designing evidence-based adherence promotion campaigns for patients on peritoneal dialysis. Journal of Communication in Healthcare, 9(2), 98–108.

[2] Fung, Timothy K. F., Ng, Y. L., Lam, M. F., & Lee, Kelvin, K. W. (2017). Psychosocial factors predict nonadherence to PD treatment: A Hong Kong survey. Peritoneal Dialysis International, 37(3), 331-337. doi:/10.3747/pdi.2016.00094.

[3] Fung, Timothy K. F., Ng, Isabella, Lam, M. F., & Lee, K. W. K., Deciding to discuss organ donation with parents: An in-depth interview study with Chinese young adults. Poster presented at the 26th International Congress of the Transplantation Society, Hong Kong, August 18–23, 2016.

[4] Fung, Timothy K. F. (2019). The role of counterfactual thinking in narrative persuasion: Its impact on patients’ adherence to treatment regimen. Health Communication, 34(12), 1482-1493. doi:10.1080/10410236.2018.1500432. (An earlier version of the paper was presented at the annual conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, Washington, D.C., August 6–9, 2018, and the paper received the Top Faulty Paper Award)

[5] Fung, Timothy K. F., Griffin, R., & Dunwoody, S. (2018). Testing Links Among Uncertainty, Affect, and Attitude Toward a Health Behavior. Science Communication, 40(1), 33-62. doi:10.1177/1075547017748947 (An earlier version of this paper was presented at the annual conference of Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, San Francisco, CA., August 6–9, 2015, and it was awarded one of the Top Three Faculty Papers)

[6] Fung, Timothy K. F., Lee, Kelvin, K. W., & Lam M. F. General Research Fund (GRF), University Grant Council (UGC), Hong Kong, October 1, 2015–June 30, 2016. Project Title: The effects of different types of counterfactual thinking in narrative persuasion: A case study of using animated narratives to persuade peritoneal dialysis patients to adhere to antiseptic

Save Your Wish Save A Life

My Family Doctor Walk With Me

My Family Doctor

Dr Timothy Fung, Associate Professor of Department of Communication Studies
Dr Kelvin Lee, Senior Lecturer of Academy of Film
Dr M. F. Lam, Nephrologist, Project Consultant