This week, WISE Indiana’s own Dr. Ross Silverman and an interdisciplinary team of researchers at IUPUI explored the use and effectiveness of metaphors when describing the COVID-19 vaccine. From war to travel to even gaming, the researchers noted that the metaphoric description of risk and the proposed solution to mitigate that risk must match. They urge political leaders, health care providers, and the media to be cautious with their metaphor use because metaphor “fit” is crucial to effectiveness.
Another group of researchers at the University of North Carolina explored effective messaging strategies to encourage the use of face coverings, which is still very important as the public awaits widespread vaccine availability. They determined that people are motivated to cover their face when they feel they are protecting or respecting other people, particularly vulnerable populations. The researchers determined that positive-framed messages focusing on unity and highlighting how face coverings protect both the wearer and others around them are most effective for compliance.
Health communicators must be aware of not only these evidence-based message strategies but also how to overcome the online COVID-19 misinformation that is likely undermining many of these messages. Researchers argue that although fact-checking efforts are necessary, they are an insufficient response to health misinformation. Instead, they suggest additional measures to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 misinformation:
- Enhance the public’s health and science literacy by educating the public on the scientific research process and the evolving nature of scientific knowledge
- Leverage existing relationships with health care providers to correct misinformation and direct patients to reliable sources of health information
- Highlight ulterior motives and encourage skepticism of disinformation agents
- Verify social media accounts of credible experts and organizations
- Implement broader environmental changes and shift social norms
Specific Populations’ Messaging Needs
Two articles this week explored the communication patterns of, and with, specific populations: people who have a fear of missing out (FOMO) and remote family members of COVID-19 terminal patients.
The first research study determined that individuals who have a fear of missing out were more likely to actively engage with social media posts about COVID-19 by reposting information. Although some individuals passively browse the overabundance of COVID-19 information online, the researchers determined it is the active information-related FOMO, not the passive infodemic, that influences our social media use and behaviors.
In a second article, commentators note the difficulty in engaging in effective communication during the death and dying process and highlight how that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, they propose modifications to the evidence-based SPIKES model to adapt its use for health care providers communicating remotely via telehealth technologies with family members of dying loved ones.