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Developing standards for institutional health communication during public health emergencies. Learning from information around COVID-19 pandemic as a case in point.

English title Developing standards for institutional health communication during public health emergencies. Learning from information around COVID-19 pandemic as a case in point.
Applicant Rubinelli Sara
Number 196736
Funding scheme Special Call on Coronaviruses
Research institution Universität Luzern
Institution of higher education University of Lucerne - LU
Main discipline Communication sciences
Start/End 01.09.2020 - 31.08.2022
Approved amount 273'844.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Discipline
Communication sciences
Health

Keywords (12)

behaviour change; health information; pandemic; communication strategies; health literacy; risk communication; public health emergencies; mixed-methods; health communication; misinformation; risk perception; institutional communication

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Während des Ausbruchs von COVID-19 fiel den Gesundheitsinstitutionen in der Schweiz und weltweit zum ersten Mal die anspruchsvolle Aufgabe zu, über Risiken zu kommunizieren in einem Umfeld, in dem Fehlinformationen weit verbreitet waren. Wie der Generaldirektor der Weltgesundheitsorganisation bei der Medienkonferenz zu COVID-19 am 5. März 2020 erklärte: «Der Kampf gegen Gerüchte und Fehlinformationen ist ein wichtiger Teil des Kampfes gegen dieses Virus.»
Lay summary

Ziele des Forschungsprojekts

Anhand der COVID-19-Pandemie untersucht das Projekt die institutionelle Kommunikation von Behörden mit der Öffentlichkeit während Krisen im Bereich der öffentlichen Gesundheit. Die Untersuchung orientiert sich insbesondere an den folgenden Forschungsfragen: Was sind die grössten Herausforderungen, mit denen Institutionen bei der Kommunikation inmitten einer solchen Informationsflut konfrontiert sind? Wie können sie Orientierung geben und Fehlinformationen bekämpfen? Wie können sie die Risikowahrnehmung und das Verhalten der Menschen gegenüber evidenzbasierten Empfehlungen zur Prävention beeinflussen? Ziel des Projekts ist es zu untersuchen, was und wie während des Ausbruchs von COVID-19 von Schweizer Behörden kommuniziert wurde, wie in den Medien darüber berichtet wurde und wie dies von der Öffentlichkeit aufgenommen wurde. Die Ergebnisse dienen der Entwicklung von Leitlinien für die institutionelle Kommunikation von Informationen bei gesundheitlichen Krisen, mit Schwerpunkt auf der Bekämpfung von Fehlinformationen.

 

Wissenschaftlicher und gesellschaftlicher Kontext des Forschungsprojekts

Risikokommunikation ist ein etabliertes Feld; in der Literatur besteht jedoch eine Lücke über die Frage, wie die offizielle Kommunikation in einem Kontext von Informationsüberlastung und Fehlinformation gestärkt werden kann. Das Projekt wird konkrete Kommunikationsstrategien liefern, die auf der Evidenz, den Erfahrungen der Beteiligten und der Wahrnehmung der Schweizer Bevölkerung während der COVID-19-Pandemie basieren
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 22.06.2020

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Abstract

BackgroundBy focusing on the recent outbreak of the coronavirus disease of 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the proposed project studies official/institutional health communication from authorities to the public during public health emergencies. This communication involves the presentation of risks under uncertainty. Risk communication is an established field. Yet, there is a gap in the literature on how to strengthen official communication in contexts of information overload and misinformation. As Dr. Teohos Adhanon Ghebreyesus, WHO’s director general, declared at the media briefing on COVID-19 on March 5th, 2020, “The fight against rumors and misinformation is a vital part of the battle against this virus”. The problem of misinformation and information overload is currently highlighted in Switzerland. Main open research questions include: What are the main challenges that institutions face in communicating in such an overload of information? How can they provide guidance and combat misinformation? How can they communicate in a way that influence people’s risk perception and behavior towards evidence-based recommendations for prevention?ObjectiveThe overall objective is to develop standards for institutional communication of health information during public health emergencies, with a focus on how to guide people’s risk perception and behavior and to combat misinformation.Methodological approach. This project will adopt a mixed-method approach. It will be subdivided in an analytical phase and a normative phase. The anlytical phase will be devoted to the description of institutional health communication around the COVID-19 outbreak, what and how it has been communicated by institutions, how it was reported by the news media and received by the public. Here, a content-analysis, semi-structured interviews and a population survey are planned. The normative phase will entail the creation of a toolkit composed of a theoretical framework and operational guidelines on how to best deliver health information during public health emergencies and in contexts characterized by misinformation. The toolkit will be validated through a Delphi study with stakeholders.Expected resultsThe proposed project will result in extensive and through understanding of institutional communication and, specifically, of the difficulties that can hinder persuasiveness of the health messages, and of what aspects have to be strengthen to solve them. It will develop concrete communication strategies that are evidence-based and grounded in the experience of stakeholders and the perceptions of the population in Switzerland during COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, the strategies will address the sender (i.e., how institutions can disseminate information in a way people trust and perceive as relevant and important), the message (i.e., what messages can look like according to elements that include the uncertainty of information and their framing, tone, and linguistic characteristics), the receiver (i.e., how communication can influence people’s perception and behavior), the channels, (i.e., how messages can be adapted to engage people using different communication), and the context (i.e., how to address parallel information from other sources and misinformation).ImpactThe proposed project is expected to have an important rapid translation outcomes as the planned toolkit will give concrete strategies for ad hoc institutional communication for the Swiss context, developed with the input of relevant stakeholders and soundly based on the analysis of institutional communication in Switzerland during COVID-19 and through a process of consensus. In parallel to this, the proposed project is expected to be of high scientific importance, as research about health risk communication in contexts of high information flows is in its infancy. Results from this project will contribute to advancing the field by providing insight on problems faced by institutions in the design and delivery of health information during public health emergencies by identifying and providing strategies to influence individuals’ perceptions and behaviors, focusing on how to combat misinformation.
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