Weekly Review: Communicating COVID-19 – October 26, 2020

Weekly Review: Communicating COVID-19 – October 26, 2020

Communicating through Social Media

It is important for effective risk communication during COVID-19 to instruct, inform, and motivate appropriate self-protective behaviors, and it is also important to monitor the changing environment and address the informational needs of the public. This research study analyzed the messages of almost 700 public health agency Twitter accounts at multiple government levels during the first 60 days of the pandemic in the United States. The results highlight the rapidly changing foci as well as the need boost specific coordinated messages among local, state, and regional agencies to avoid confusion and to be effective.

Communicating through Mass Media

Much of the health messaging about COVID-19 is through mass media, and this research study made scientific inferences based on the researchers’ analysis of the role of mass media and public health communications during the first seven months of the year. Because of its important role in disseminating information, mass media can provide a unified platform for all public health communications. They must circulate accurate information about comprehensive health care guidelines to influence public behavior and curtail the spread of the virus. The article also presents positive and negative effects of media and proposes developing a model to evaluate media response during a pandemic.

One of the potentially negative effects of mass media is related to the political partisanship of network news. This research study demonstrated that individuals’ media preferences influenced their enactment of recommended preventive behaviors. Individuals who trusted Fox News more than CNN were less likely to engage in preventive behaviors and more likely to engage in risky behaviors. The researchers argue that during a public health crisis, media should reduce their partisan stance on health information  to provide neutral, science-based information to protect individuals and communities.

Communicating through Visual Communication

In this essay, researchers present an overview of research on visual health communication. They argue that strategic use of visuals can improve the quality of information presented during a public health crisis like COVID-19 and offer suggestions for lessening unintended effects of the related infodemic. In their review of existing evidence-based best practices, they provide resources for recommendations related to graphical and illustrative visual content.

As the world experiences the COVID-19 pandemic, our collective understanding of the pandemic will shape the “outbreak narrative” that we construct. In this perspective, the authors discuss various images of the pandemic that we engage with including infographics, photographs, and epidemiological maps. A unique visual contribution to the pandemic are comics. Graphic medicine is an interdisciplinary field in health humanities that has started illustrating the COVID-19 pandemic. These valuable contributions offer a visual culture of contagion to collectively process and understand this moment in time and provides a historical record of shared understanding and emotion.

Communicating Misinformation

Much of the focus of COVID-19 information lately has centered around the abundance of circulating misinformation. Three articles this week attempt to better understand who is circulating the information, what is being circulated, and developing partnerships to combat it.

In this research study, researchers propose a socio-cognitive profile of individuals who spread scientific misinformation online. Their research revealed that political beliefs, in particular tendencies towards social dominance, are important for understanding how misinformation about COVID-19 is spread. Generally, the more conservative one is, the more likely s/he is to believe conspiracy theories and more willing to share conspiracy-themed misinformation on social media.

In another study, conspiracy theories are recognized as the most frequently identified category of misinformation. The researchers identified 11 conspiracy theory themes or misinformation sub-topics, and the most common one to spread was related to miracle cures. The most likely drivers of this infodemic were top government officials.

Finally, to help avoid the spread of misinformation, Wikipedia and the World Health Organization (WHO) have joined forces. WHO will grant Wikipedia free use of its published information, graphics, and videos in the hopes of accurate information dissemination. The quicker reliable information is disseminated, the greater likelihood of disarming misinformation. Content will be available in 200 languages.

|2020-10-26T10:12:11-04:00October 26th, 2020|COVID-19 Literature|0 Comments

About the Author: Maria Brann

Maria Brann
Dr. Maria Brann, PhD, MPH, is a professor in the Department of Communication Studies in the School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI and affiliate faculty with the Injury Control Research Center at West Virginia University. She explores the integration of health, interpersonal, and gender communication. Her translational focus and mixed methods approach are woven throughout her health vulnerabilities research, which advocates for more effective communication to improve people’s health and safety. Her primary research interests focus on the study of women’s and ethical issues in health communication contexts and promotion of healthy lifestyle behaviors to improve personal and public health and safety. She researches communication at both the micro and macro levels and studies how communication influences relationships among individuals and with the social world.

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