What is the public health risk communication response to COVID‑19 in the context of social media?

Kothari, Anita R | $129,595

Ontario Western University 2020 CIHR Operating Grant

Keeping Canadians safe requires a robust public health system. This is especially true when there is a public health emergency, like the novel Coronavirus outbreak. Social media, like twitter and Facebook, is an important information channel because most people use the internet for their health information. The public health sector can use social media during emergency events for: 1) public health messaging, 2) monitoring misinformation, and 3) responding to questions and concerns raised by the public. In this study we ask: What is the public health risk communication response to an emergency infectious disease in the context of social media? We examine how provinces and provincial public health leaders, and the Public Health Agency of Canada and national public heath leaders engage with the public using social media during the Coronavirus event. We compare findings to provincial and national public heath social media activity before the emergency. We also compare findings to the gold standard – WHO social media activity during the emergency. Using our study findings, we will work with public health stakeholders to collaboratively develop a much-needed Canadian social media emergency response set of guideline recommendations for public health and other health system organizations.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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