Coronavirus (783) WHO: Framework for Managing the COVID-19 Infodemic

28 June, 2020

HIFA welcomes this new paper from WHO, which concludes: 'We call on citizens from all parts of society to demand reliable, evidence-based information, and to take actions that empower their communities to use trusted information to protect the most vulnerable and themselves.'

CITATION: Framework for Managing the COVID-19 Infodemic: Methods and Results of an Online, Crowdsourced WHO Technical Consultation

Viroj Tangcharoensathien1 et al.

J Med Internet Res 2020;22(6):e19659

DOI: 10.2196/19659

PMID: 32558655

Published on 26.06.20 in Vol 22, No 6 (2020): June


Background: An infodemic is an overabundance of information — some accurate and some not — that occurs during an epidemic. In a similar manner to an epidemic, it spreads between humans via digital and physical information systems. It makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it.

Objective: A World Health Organization (WHO) technical consultation on responding to the infodemic related to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic was held, entirely online, to crowdsource suggested actions for a framework for infodemic management.

Methods: A group of policy makers, public health professionals, researchers, students, and other concerned stakeholders was joined by representatives of the media, social media platforms, various private sector organizations, and civil society to suggest and discuss actions for all parts of society, and multiple related professional and scientific disciplines, methods, and technologies. A total of 594 ideas for actions were crowdsourced online during the discussions and consolidated into suggestions for an infodemic management framework.

Results: The analysis team distilled the suggestions into a set of 50 proposed actions for a framework for managing infodemics in health emergencies. The consultation revealed six policy implications to consider. First, interventions and messages must be based on science and evidence, and must reach citizens and enable them to make informed decisions on how to protect themselves and their communities in a health emergency. Second, knowledge should be translated into actionable behavior-change messages, presented in ways that are understood by and accessible to all individuals in all parts of all societies. Third, governments should reach out to key communities to ensure their concerns and information needs are understood, tailoring advice and messages to address the audiences they represent. Fourth, to strengthen the analysis and amplification of information impact, strategic partnerships should be formed across all sectors, including but not limited to the social media and technology sectors, academia, and civil society. Fifth, health authorities should ensure that these actions are informed by reliable information that helps them understand the circulating narratives and changes in the flow of information, questions, and misinformation in communities. Sixth, following experiences to date in responding to the COVID-19 infodemic and the lessons from other disease outbreaks, infodemic management approaches should be further developed to support preparedness and response, and to inform risk mitigation, and be enhanced through data science and sociobehavioral and other research.

Conclusions: The first version of this framework proposes five action areas in which WHO Member States and actors within society can apply, according to their mandate, an infodemic management approach adapted to national contexts and practices. Responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and the related infodemic require swift, regular, systematic, and coordinated action from multiple sectors of society and government. It remains crucial that we promote trusted information and fight misinformation, thereby helping save lives.

Best wishes, Neil

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