The role of communication strategies and media discourse in shaping psychological and behavioral response to the COVID‑19 outbreak: a comparative analysis between Canada and two Asian countries/regions

Genereux, Mélissa | $499,950

Quebec Université de Sherbrooke 2020 CIHR Operating Grant

First identified in December 2019 in China, the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) has been declared a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO). Large outbreaks can increase the sense of fear and lead to adverse responses from the public, such as denial, rumors, misconceptions, stigmatization, and avoidance behaviors. Both news media and social media play a major role shaping these responses. Little is known about how people of various cultural and social backgrounds react to health information and misinformation. It is also unclear how official information (from the authorities) flows and circulates across levels of governance (from WHO to countries, then from countries to citizens). Our research project aims to contribute to a better understanding of how the health information related to the COVID‑19 outbreak is delivered by authorities and media, and how it is received, understood and used by the public. To do so, we will conduct a survey about knowledge, perceptions, and reactions to the COVID‑19 outbreak among large and representative samples of the population in three places: Canada, Hong Kong and Philippines. We will also analyze and compare the way information about COVID‑19 outbreak is shared in the news media and the social media. Finally, we will look at how health information delivered and received by the population is influenced by the multiple levels of governance. This international research project will allow to 1) evaluate the impacts of communication strategy and misinformation on populations of various backgrounds and 2) draw important lessons that could be applied to future disasters and global threats.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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