In this article, health risk communication scholars use systems theory to analyze U.S. government communication during the COVID-19 pandemic and offer recommendations for local, national, and international governments to effectively communicate with the public:
- Actively seek and respond to relevant information to identify risks and best response strategies
- Develop strong trusted relationships with counterparts to coordinate emergency responses
- Build cooperative relationships by sharing relevant information to influential groups involved in the response
- Communicate clearly and transparently to avoid misinformation, confusion, and/or fear
- Centralize information management to disseminate the best scientific information
- Establish dissemination strategies to control flow and content of shared information
- Create a direct communication channel with the public to receive feedback
- Construct a holistic health risk communication system connecting local, federal, and international governments with the public
- Protect minority groups from discrimination due to stigma and prejudice
- Guide public policy decisions to match demands related to the spread and risk of infection
In this letter to the editor, an international group of scholars notes how simplistic and vague messages and polarizing narratives have led to misconceptions and conflicting messages about mask wearing during the COVID-19 pandemic. To gain public support for the uptake of non-pharmaceutical behaviors, messages about benefit, risks, and uncertainties are essential. It is important to communicate how to properly wear a mask, when to wear a mask, and what type of mask to wear. Clarity, while acknowledging nuances and lingering uncertainties, is needed to build trust and encourage compliance.
In this article, researchers use a social network analysis of conversations on Twitter to understand public discourse about COVID-19. They learned that the conversations are highly decentralized, fragmented, and loosely connected, which is problematic for effective dissemination of public health messages. The researchers argue that a social network analysis of conversations on social media is essential for public health officials to plan, monitor, and evaluate risk communication efforts to understand how best to address competing conversations and misinformation that may deter health promotion efforts. This extended view moves beyond basic quantitative social media metrics and text or content analyses, which may be misleading, to help public health officials understand who is mediating information and what they can do to fight the COVID-19 infodemic.