Coronavirus (563) Knowledge is (still) power

6 May, 2020

Dear HIFA colleagues,

Below are the citation and selected extracts of the lead editorial in this month's EClinicalMedicine, published by The Lancet.

CITATION: Editorial| volume 21, 100365, april 01, 2020

Knowledge is (still) power

Open Access Published: April, 2020



More so than ever, the need for accurate reliable medical information has been highlighted... the hunger for information of any kind is at its greatest. The current coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic provides us with the opportunity to assess the public's relationship with information on their health...

From exercise, to nutrition, to the most appropriate treatment modalities for ailments, our best source of information (the internet) is awash with non-evidence-based content...

The current pandemic has shown that, in many cases, the people we would typically look to for leadership and guidance show poor judgement on the information that they utilise and share... During the Easter period, the president of Tanzania, John Magagula, was quoted as saying, “This is time to build our faith and continue praying to God and not depending on facemasks. Don't stop going to churches and mosques for prayers. I'm sure this is just a change of wind and it will go like others have gone”. The Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, has consistently downplayed the dangers of the COVID-19, endangering the populace.. describing the pandemic as “a little flu”, combined with public visits to busy markets completely mislead the public at a time when sound, life-saving information was required. The US president, Donald Trump, has repeatedly disseminated apocryphal information publicly and via social media to downplay the seriousness of the virus...

The global dissemination of unproven causes and cure-alls for COVID-19 are rampant. From cow urine prophylactics, repurposed bomb detectors (claimed to detect COVID-19 in 5 min), lemongrass and elderberry tea treatments, and the felling of allergic poplar trees, cures and causes are rapidly spread... Purely preventing individuals from receiving information in a health crisis is one aspect of the battle, but ensuring appropriate evidence-based knowledge is spread is the key to winning the war...

Quality health-care communication can empower the public with knowledge on how they can contribute to the safety of their immediate community. We will eventually see the end of this pandemic, but a hopeful enduring result might be a more engaged infectious disease-aware society.


Best wishes, Neil

Let's build a future where people are no longer dying for lack of healthcare information - Join HIFA:

HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - ), a global community with 20,000 members in 180 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages in collaboration with WHO. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: