Health communication

29/08/2022

To map the public information about COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine trials in Europe, we have compiled an inventory of online communication materials from official sources (e.g., governments, public agencies, and NGOs) via directed online research. While information for the general public was abundant across Europe, we found a large variation in number, type and target audiences among countries. Little or no information was found for population groups that are typically underrepresented in vaccine clinical trials. Materials about clinical trials and trial participation were also limited. Interestingly, higher number of media materials was not reflected in higher national vaccination rates.

22/08/2022

We investigated pro- and anti-vaccine rhetoric on two South African Facebook pages to identify the nature, sources and justifications of the vaccine-related claims published on these pages. Our dataset consisted of 440 Facebook posts made by page administrators during 2019. Statements related to the safety and necessity of vaccines dominated the pro-vaccine page, while the anti-vaccine page focussed primarily on claims about the dangers of vaccines. Posts on both pages frequently contained content shared from within Facebook, with much of the content originating from the United States. Both pages made equal use of scientific justifications (i.e. published journal articles) to support claims, and most of these articles were published in accredited journals. The authors hope that a better understanding of the nature, sources and justifications of pro- and anti-vaccine rhetoric may lead to more constructive dialogue about vaccines, including the ongoing debate about COVID-19 vaccines.

18/07/2022

At last, a compilation of essays that provide fascinating insights into Health Communication and Disease in Africa. Falade and Murire (eds.) have produced a volume which needed to be written and will delight those with an interest in health and science communication, public health, social and behaviour change, and theoretical approaches to health communication. Broad themes cover stigma, beliefs and traditions, and rethinking approaches to health communication. A key element is the effort to bridge ‘classical’ approaches to health communication and behaviour change with indigenous knowledge systems of people in Africa.

23/05/2022

There exist today many forms of anti-scientific beliefs, from extreme views like the QAnon conspiracies, to misconceptions about vaccines and cancer treatment. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented to us a situation in which the public is being asked by medical experts and politicians alike to trust in science and follow after various health recommendations like wearing masks or getting vaccinated against the virus. We used an anti-science belief scale [Morgan et al., 2018] to assess how preexisting beliefs that run counter to the scientific narrative predict behaviors during the pandemic. We found that people who were more accepting of those anti-scientific positions trusted medical information and experts less and engaged less in recommended health behaviors, while simultaneously showing a more favorable view of Trump's actions as President during the pandemic.

16/05/2022

YouTube videos offer a potentially useful vehicle for the communication of science, health, and medical information about COVID-19 to children. Findings from this research showed that primary characters appearing in children's educational YouTube videos about COVID-19 were most often adults, with about an equal number of men and women and few characters from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. Primary characters frequently demonstrated and modeled protective health measures. Adult expert characters (medical professionals and scientists) appeared to some extent in these videos. Directive discourse frames appeared most frequently, followed by the informative and persuasive discourse frames when communicating scientific and health information. Changes in the use of informative, directive, and persuasive frames before and after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced guidelines on how to communicate about COVID-19 with children are explored.

20/04/2022

This paper synthesizes the efforts of an interdisciplinary, University-convened communication task force in the U.S. that used science communication theory to develop an effective strategy during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. We outline recommendations for researchers and practitioners who are, or are interested in, implementing theory-based communication practices while describing how we dealt with the unforeseen realities we faced. Overall, we recommend that effective public health and science communication should be based on theory and formative evaluation while relying on established infrastructure, real-time data, a deep understanding of intended target audiences, and intentional coordination with community partners.

28/03/2022

This practice insight focuses on lessons learned while completing a research project designed to compare the relative effectiveness of three communication strategies in rural communities relative to motivating citizens to take action on a public health issue, specifically Type 2 diabetes. Our main arguments are: 1) Engaging citizens in any type of communication related to public health or science action requires first assessing a community's readiness for that action; and 2) Community readiness — rather than communication methodology — is the better predictor of citizens' participation in collective or individual actions on public health and science issues.

07/03/2022

Accurate news media reporting of scientific research is important as most people receive their health information from the media and inaccuracies in media reporting can have adverse health outcomes. We completed a quantitative and qualitative analysis of a journal article, the corresponding press release and the online news reporting of a scientific study. Four themes were identified in the press release that were directly translated to the news reports that contributed to inaccuracies: sensationalism, misrepresentation, clinical recommendations and subjectivity. The pressures on journalists, scientists and their institutions has led to a mutually beneficial relationship between these actors that can prioritise newsworthiness ahead of scientific integrity to the detriment of public health.

06/12/2021

The article presents the results of a survey of science journalists from six world regions about their work during the COVID-19 pandemic. The responses show perception of increasing workload for most participants. Local scientists and peer-reviewed articles are the main sources. According to the respondents, scientists have become more available during the pandemic. The use of preprint articles was a frequent practice, but a considerable proportion declared they did not adopt different procedures when reporting them. Most also said they take fake news into account when writing their stories.

11/10/2021

Undertaking citizen science research in Public Health involving human subjects poses significant challenges concerning the traditional process of ethical approval. It requires an extension of the ethics of protection of research subjects in order to include the empowerment of citizens as citizen scientists. This paper investigates these challenges and illustrates the ethical framework and the strategies developed within the CitieS-Health project. It also proposes first recommendations generated from the experiences of five citizen science pilot studies in environmental epidemiology within this project.

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