This editorial posits that health communication is a necessary factor in saving lives during the COVID-19 pandemic, and political leaders, health experts, and even the general public have a responsibility to share accurate information.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has developed, the need to provide clear, honest, and valid information has become obvious. In fact, it has been noted that verified information is the most effective prevention against panic, which may cause more harm than the virus itself. Four suggestions are provided for communicating in these uncertain and demanding times:
- Declare openly and honestly what is known and what is unknown (stick to the facts)
- Communicate consistent and specific information
- Demonstrate the ability to make decisions in this uncertain situation with confidence and honesty
- Acknowledge emotions
When communicating specific behavior change recommendations, it important to recognize how those recommendations are framed to encourage adherence among individuals and communities. Four evidence-based recommendations are offered:
- Create a mental model about how contamination works and how this can be prevented
- Communicate the need to change one’s environment to be able to follow recommendations (e.g., have hand sanitizer easily accessible)
- Appeal to the collective action and “we-are-in-it-together” spirit
- Stress the importance of continuing recommended behaviors long term
This is the first time in history that political leaders and health experts have had to be so extensively involved in such a unique situation. Communication around measures taken can improve the physical and mental health of many cases.