Combating the Pandemic Infodemic

by | Jan 5, 2021

At present, we are facing not just a COVID-19 pandemic, but also an infodemic.

We are inundated with a steady flow of information about COVID-19 that often appears overwhelming. Much of the information is highly technical and packed with statistics that are difficult for non-experts to decipher, let alone view critically. Add in inconsistent messaging, a steady diet of misinformation (false or inaccurate information), and disinformation (intentionally deceptive information) and it is little wonder that considerable confusion exists about COVID-19 at a time when clarity is needed.

Early on, HCW HOSTED recognized the need both for evidence-based filtering of available COVID-19 information and for summarizing what we do and do not know in simple language. These summaries need to be paired with enough facts to establish the credibility of the content.

Creating these summaries has proven to be a challenging task given how fast our scientific understanding of this novel coronavirus is evolving. Our team of medical anthropologists and epidemiologists has been hard at work doing such translational research since April 2020.

To date, the team has produced and updated nine separate primers on COVID-19. The primers are iterative and responsive to the feedback and queries submitted by readers.

The primers serve several purposes. They

  1. Inform HCW HOSTED’s problem solving and decision making
  2. Raise the level of  understanding of individual readers enabling them to better communicate with others be they friends or patients
  3. Provide teachers and health care workers with ready access to educational materials they can use when asked to speak to colleagues, students, policy makers, and the public. 

Better communication of evidence-based information about COVID-19 within personal and professional networks is a necessary step in reducing the flow of misinformation that is currently running rampant on social media. At HOSTED, we are happy to do our part.

Mark Nichter, PhD, MPH is Regents Professor Emeritus and former coordinator of the Graduate Medical Anthropology Training Program at UA. In addition to a Ph.D. in anthropology and a M.P.H. in International Health, Mark has postdoctoral training in cultural psychiatry and clinically applied anthropology. He holds joint appointments in the Departments of Family and Community Medicine and the College of Public Health. Mark has over 40 years of experience conducting a broad array of health-related research in Asia, Africa, and North America. He has served on three Institute of Medicine Panels, as a consultant for several International Health Organizations, and as a long term advisor to the International Network of Clinical Epidemiology. He leads our Epidemiology & Medical Anthropology team and serves on the Econometrics, Messaging, and Leadership teams.

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