Coronavirus (896) Definition of infodemic (7)

14 August, 2020

Dear Neil and Chris and all,

I wonder if I am coming late to the discussion that Neil started about WHO’s definition of ‘infodemic’, and to which Chris contributed. Whatever the case, I have just read the contributions and read the WHO definition again and wonder why the WHO chose that definition. We have held two public Health Talks under the auspices of the DR Kubiangha Education Foundation, Calabar, Nigeria because a majority of the population are not complying with the COVID-19 mitigation advice. For some people the WHO definition is complex and confusing. We should be trying to break it down such that it is less complex. The complexity arises from adding both ‘accurate’ and ‘inaccurate’ in one definition space. Some might say over-supply of accurate information is a bad thing, but is it ever as bad as supplying inaccurate information?. Information over-supply never killed anyone, but inaccurate information even in small supply can kill. Therefore, my worry about the WHO definition is that it confuses and blurs the clear distinction between accurate and inaccurate information in one definition space.

The dictionary says that "disinformation" means "false information that is given deliberately, especially by government organizations", and that to "misinform" is "to give somebody wrong information about something". If one uses these characterisation then one could say that Infodemic is the situation where disinformation by government and misinformation by people are in play, (or a description near to this).

As for COVID-19, it is not the beginning of infodemic and would not be the last. It happened in every other epidemic before this pandemic, including during SARS, Ebola, etc. I think that accurate information should be promoted even if over-supplied because it does not kill, it could lead to information-fatique but it does not kill. The difference is that infodemic described as suggested above clearly informs the public that disinformation and misinformation, both of which can harm and kill people, must be eliminated. WHO’s definition is at variance to HIFA’s aspiration, ‘Let's build a future where people are no longer dying for lack of healthcare information’.

Joseph Ana

HIFA profile: Joseph Ana is the Lead Consultant and Trainer at the Africa Centre for Clinical Governance Research and Patient Safety in Calabar, Nigeria. In 2015 he won the NMA Award of Excellence for establishing 12-Pillar Clinical Governance, Quality and Safety initiative in Nigeria. He has been the pioneer Chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) National Committee on Clinical Governance and Research since 2012. He is also Chairman of the Quality & Performance subcommittee of the Technical Working Group for the implementation of the Nigeria Health Act. He is a pioneer Trustee-Director of the NMF (Nigerian Medical Forum) which took the BMJ to West Africa in 1995. He is particularly interested in strengthening health systems for quality and safety in LMICs. He has written Five books on the 12-Pillar Clinical Governance for LMICs, including a TOOLS for Implementation. He established the Department of Clinical Governance, Servicom & e-health in the Cross River State Ministry of Health, Nigeria in 2007. Website: Joseph is a member of the HIFA Steering Group and the HIFA working group on Community Health Workers.

Email: jneana AT