A BBC team tracking coronavirus misinformation has found links to assaults, arsons and deaths. And experts say the potential for indirect harm caused by rumours, conspiracy theories and bad health information could be much bigger.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is presenting a framework for managing the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infodemic. Infodemiology is now acknowledged by public health organizations and the WHO as an important emerging scientific field and critical area of practice during a pandemic.
From the perspective of being the first “infodemiolgist” who originally coined the term almost two decades ago, the author posts four pillars of infodemic management:
- Information monitoring (infoveillance)
- Building eHealth Literacy and science literacy capacity
- Encouraging knowledge refinement and quality improvement processes such as fact checking and peer-review
- Accurate and timely knowledge translation, minimizing distorting factors such as political or commercial influences
A World Health Organization (WHO) technical consultation on responding to the infodemic related to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic was held, entirely online, to crowdsource suggested actions for a framework for infodemic management.
The first version of this framework proposes five action areas in which WHO Member States and actors within society can apply, according to their mandate, an infodemic management approach adapted to national contexts and practices. Responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and the related infodemic require swift, regular, systematic, and coordinated action from multiple sectors of society and government. It remains crucial that we promote trusted information and fight misinformation, thereby helping save lives.
This article lists nine tips for staying calm and informed when hearing information about coronavirus.
The nine tips are:
- Does the story play on your emotions or present facts using neutral language?
- Is it too good to be true?
- What is the date of the story?
- Who is the author?
- Does the information come from a credible source?
- Does the story use or abuse data?
- Does it show causation or correlation?
- Does the story talk about cost and availability?
- Of mice or men?
Very little is known about how factors like fear, misinformation, stress, and social norms are shaping behaviors that affect transmission of COVID-19. Even less is understood about what might lead people to ignore government recommendations altogether.
To fill in these gaps, a consortium of more than 100 behavioral researchers on five continents is currently working around the clock to measure the full social and material consequences of this pandemic. Our goal is simple: to demonstrate in real time what is working—and what isn’t.
The study is designed in three phases. The first consists of a 20-minute-long survey taken weekly that gauges how human beings are coping during this unprecedented crisis. Questions focus on individual thoughts, feelings, concerns and motivations, and how COVID-19 affects everything from faith in leaders to attitudes toward migrants. More than 45,000 people in 100 countries have taken the survey in 22 languages, and the study leaders are registering additional respondents every day.
An existing hotline in Cambodia has been scaled up for COVID-19 Digital Response, going from 500-600 calls per day to 18,000 calls on peak days. Roughly 75% of callers access the health education menu and 25% are reporting suspect COVID-19 cases/symptoms.
Cambodia CDC is using the hotline as a primary first point of contact for all potential COVID-19 cases in the country – surveillance officers have staffed up to answer calls around the clock, screen callers, and direct them to appropriate rapid response teams/contract tracing teams for verification and testing.
As testing is still very limited, this approach is helping them reduce the overall burden on the health system – trying to give people the education and screening they need remotely.
Expanding the 115 Hotline has allowed the Cambodian government to efficiently and effectively implement a response to the outbreak in their country. The ability to respond quickly, and reduce the burden of wasting critical time looking for or developing new solutions is just one of many.
This article lists several reasons for the success of the hotline.
WHO has reported that as COVID-19 continues to spread globally, over 117 million children in 37 countries may miss out on receiving life-saving measles vaccine. Measles immunization campaigns in 24 countries have already been delayed; more will be postponed.
Social media platforms have long been recognised as major disseminators of health misinformation. Many previous studies have found a negative association between health-protective behaviours and belief in the specific form of misinformation popularly known as ‘conspiracy theory’. Concerns have arisen regarding the spread of COVID-19 conspiracy theories on social media.
All three studies found a negative relationship between COVID-19 conspiracy beliefs and COVID-19 health-protective behaviors, and a positive relationship between COVID-19 conspiracy beliefs and use of social media as a source of information about COVID-19. Studies 2 and 3 also found a negative relationship between COVID-19 health-protective behaviors and use of social media as a source of information, and Study 3 found a positive relationship between health-protective behaviors and use of broadcast media as a source of information.
The conclusion of the authors is that, when used as an information source, unregulated social media may present a health risk that is partly but not wholly reducible to their role as disseminators of health-related conspiracy beliefs.
This case study relates how communities in Chad are carrying out SBC for COVID-19, especially considering the crowded conditions in which much of the population lives. By using community members, the messaging has gotten out.
Village chiefs, neighbourhood leaders and health workers have volunteered to be part of Chad’s door-to-door campaigns to sensitize the public. They are mostly members of the communities they are reaching out to. In a country where most people live communally, it is a challenge to enforce physical distancing.
YouTube is the second most popular website in the world and is increasingly being used as a platform for disseminating health information. The authors’ aim was to evaluate the content‐quality and audience engagement of YouTube videos pertaining to the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome)‐CoV‐2 virus which causes the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID‐19), during the early phase of the pandemic.
They chose the first 30 videos for seven different search phrases: “2019 nCoV,” “SARS CoV‐2,” “COVID‐19 virus,” “coronavirus treatment,” “coronavirus explained,” “what is the coronavirus” and “coronavirus information.” Video contents were evaluated by two independent medical students with more than 5 years of experience using the DISCERN instrument. Qualitative data, quantitative data and upload source for each video was noted for a quality and audience engagement analysis.
Out of the total 210 videos, 137 were evaluated. The mean DISCERN score was 31.33 out of 75 possible points, which indicates that the quality of YouTube videos on COVID‐19 is currently poor. There was excellent reliability between the two raters (intraclass correlation coefficient = 0.96). 55% of the videos discussed prevention, 49% discussed symptoms and 46% discussed the spread of the virus.
Most of the videos were uploaded by news channels (50%) and education channels (40%). The quality of YouTube videos on SARS‐CoV‐2 and COVID‐19 is poor, however, the authors have listed the top‐quality videos in their article as they may be effective tools for patient education during the pandemic.
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