Coronavirus (929) WHO: Special Issues on Infodemiology (3) Definition of infodemic (19)

21 August, 2020

Neil thanks for sharing.

So, essentially my reading of this ‘fuller definition of infodemic’ is that it classifies infodemic into benign and malignant, when it says that ‘While some false information is merely confusing without an explicit manipulative intent, other false health messages can be hazardous for public health, especially insofar as it leads people to react in ways that favor the spreading of the contagion or jeopardize the efficacy of the containment measures and adherence to guidelines validated by experts.' It is benign when it is humor as in when comedians crack jokes and no one takes it seriously as to want to try it out in real life, and malignant when it is espoused by people in high places and offices or are academics and researchers and some people take it seriously and try it out to their peril and harm.

I am inclined to agree with such a division / classification because it is helpful as we try to explain to the public in my local environment, who are currently largely in denial of the existence or the deadly consequences of Covid-19 and the pandemic that it has caused, terribly damaging peoples’ health and their livelihoods.

Beyond the three suggested remedies of ‘building individual health literacy; building organisational health literacy; and simple tools to help people differentiate’ mentioned by Neil, there are other measures closely allied to the three, without which all the effort comes to naught. I shall mention just one of these other remedies, Covid-19 struck in December 2019 / January 2020. Many of the people currently in denial are very literate on health matters, belong to organisations that advocate and train people on health literacy either as employees or even as the proprietors of such organisations, but that has not stopped them disbelieving the fact of covid-19 pandemic. As we have said before on this forum a major missing (weakest) link to availability, access and use of reliable accurate information is the lack of effective global leadership (other epidemics post 1918 did not become pandemics because there was Global Leadership, including during the Cold War).

All the threads of remedies must be interconnected and LED appropriately ‘holistically’ as Neil postulates, if infodemic of any definition is to be controlled and managed. I say controlled not eliminated because since we have the internet and an advancing and enlarging social medial uncontrolled or rarely moderated, infodemic is here to stay. The World can only work out ways to manage it like any Chronic Condition. The world needs to rebuild its global leadership and soon.

Joseph Ana.


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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.

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