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Health Security Releases Special Feature on Infodemics

Center News


February 19, 2021 – Today, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security at the Bloomberg School of Public Health has released a new special feature in the journal Health Security. This special feature is part of the World Health Organization (WHO) joint call for articles on infodemics with 5 leading peer-reviewed journals in different fields, all related to the components of infodemics and infodemic management during public health emergencies.

The term “infodemic” is used to denote a rapid, large-scale spread of health information and misinformation through a variety of media and informational channels. This overabundance of information—some accurate and some not—makes it difficult for people to differentiate between false and true information.

The Health Security infodemics and health security special feature includes 9 papers related to the current COVID-19 pandemic. The 6 original articles address practice- and research-based analysis of misinformation during epidemics, characteristics of successful online messaging, disinformation and epidemics in the context of biowarfare, understanding the impact of different news sources on risk perception, and use of community listening and feedback to respond to false information. The 3 commentaries focus on the COVID-19 pandemic in the context of crisis and emergency risk communication, scientific situational awareness, and approaches to social media messaging.

“Although the existence of false information during public health emergencies will never be completely eradicated, understanding the problem, improving approaches to address it, and continued commitment to meeting the challenge of infodemics may enable responders and policymakers to lessen its spread and impact,” write Dr. Tara Kirk Sell and coauthors in the special feature’s introductory commentary. “Given its global scale and rapid spread, the current COVID-19 infodemic is an important opportunity to find and adapt new preparedness and response tools to manage the information ecosystem in which we live.”

Infodemics and the spread of health misinformation are a global and multifaceted phenomenon. This special feature in Health Security addresses the wide range of policy, practice, and research issues relevant to infodemiology and the management of infodemics during large-scale health events.

The editors of this special feature were Tara Kirk Sell, PhD; Divya Hosangadi, MSPH; and Marc Trotochaud, MSPH.