The present pandemic, described as the biggest calamity of the last hundred years in the modern world, has underscored that effective communication is at the heart of winning any public health challenge. As the pandemic unfolded in its scale, affecting lives and livelihoods drastically, the governments world over continue to be faced with the challenge of “infodemic.” The World Health Organization has described it as “too much information including false or misleading information in digital and physical environments during a disease outbreak.”
The global body has underlined that infodemic can cause confusion and lead to mistrust in health authorities and undermine the public health response. Amid growing digitization with social media and internet use boom, infodemic can intensify rapidly. Its consequences can be detrimental and could end up lengthening outbreaks when people are unsure about what they need to do to protect their health and the wellbeing of people around them.
In such a scenario, infodemic management is a must. WHO describes it as the systematic use of risk- and evidence-based analysis and approaches to manage the infodemic and reduce its impact on health behaviours during health emergencies. It is imperative that wrong information should be discouraged and not the one which is important to save lives. Someone pointing out what is otherwise mentioned in injection guidelines cannot and should not be bracketed under Infodemic. Rather it is the misinformation or false information that needs to be put right.
In the past and in contemporary times also, there were misrepresentations from some public figures globally which led to trivialising the risks of Covid-19. Initially someone equated Covid-19 with seasonal influenza, questioning the effectiveness of mitigation and control measures like the use of masks etc. Someone promoted untried treatments like use of hydroxychloroquine, notwithstanding assertions of public health experts.
There is also flooding of social posts regarding treatment protocols based on prescriptions from doctors to their patients. Treatment differs from patient to patient and as such people should avoid self-medication. Also, self-administering steroids by people has surfaced and bad effects in the shape of black fungus have already unfolded. Social media is also awash with fake remedies and they are just as insidious.
The Jammu and Kashmir administration has been proactive in its approach to dispel false information about vaccination and such an endeavor should continue.
Convincing a large society to undertake collective preventive measures requires sustained public interventions and the government must disseminate key information to bring about the desired health outcomes.