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Social media platforms are key sources of information about COVID-19 in some migrant and ethnic minority populations around the world, according to a study of data from six countries.
The research was published in a special publication on Wednesday ahead of the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ECCMID 2022, Lisbon, Portugal, April 23-26). It was also posted on the medRxiv preprint server. The research has not yet been peer reviewed.
Understanding where patients get their information about COVID and why can help improve communication with patients during the pandemic, the authors say.
Lucy P. Goldsmith, PhD, and Sally Hargreaves, PhD, co-first authors with the Institute for Infection and Immunity at St. George’s University in London, England, led a team to review data from 21 studies in six countries: China, Jordan, Qatar, Turkey, United Kingdom and United States. The studies included the screening of 1849 unique records.
The team systematically reviewed searches listed in the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Research on COVID-19 database for articles reporting on the use of social media by migrants and ethnic minorities. in the world.
“Populations facing barriers to accessing reliable public health information, including migrants and ethnic minority groups, may be disproportionately affected by misinformation circulating through social media, including on platforms social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram), but this has not been rated well to date,” the authors write.
Examples of findings include that social media was the preferred source of COVID information for international migrants in China (WeChat was used by 94.5% of respondents for this information).
Additionally, “among 389 Syrian refugee mothers in Jordan, Facebook and WhatsApp were the primary sources of information about COVID-19 for 87% and 69% of respondents respectively,” the authors add.
Information in a person’s native language
In many cases, the authors say, relying on social media posts for information about vaccines may result from little information being available in a person’s native language from more conventional trusted sources.
While agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) translate information into multiple languages, many immigrants in the United States and around the world will not find key information translated into their native language, at least not timely, Tasleem Padamsee, PhD, a medical sociologist in the Division of Health Services Management and Policy, College of Public Health, Ohio State University in Columbus, said Medscape Medical News.
She said that while broad and consistent messaging from the WHO and CDC is important in the pandemic, this study underscores that “we know that many groups benefit – not just during the pandemic – from the health information provided by trusted members of their own communities.”
Padamsee said the study also highlights the need to post correct information when incorrect information is on the rise across platforms.
“It can’t just be that public health authorities, doctors and health systems provide information through announcements from clinics and public services and newspapers. They need to think about where people get their information. If people get information from social media, we need to put information in those outlets as well,” she said.
The goldsmith said Medscape Medical News the results can help clinicians and health systems send messages and better communicate with patients.
The findings show the need to promote targeted and tailored health information to marginalized populations who have limited access to health and immunization systems, she said.
She also advises against promoting one-way communication of “more accurate” information.
Healthcare providers and public health organizations should seek to understand why certain population groups turn to social media and understand what drives belief in misinformation, “including the true knowledge vacuum, barriers to access and health literacy,” Goldsmith said.
Mixed information from social media
Researchers have found both negative and positive effects in obtaining information from social media.
Some posts showed the positive benefits of social media, such as personalizing information and adapting health information to different cultures.
An example of a negative experience was found in a UK qualitative study of undocumented migrants. He revealed that among 23 participants who were hesitant about getting the COVID shot, “some participants described fears about theories based on misinformation, often coming from social media or word of mouth, with many describing a sense of conflict over sources of information to trust”.
Goldsmith said they decided to release the data earlier because “it’s really important to meet health care needs, including knowledge and information needs, in an accessible way. We’re excited to release this study early, before the conference, to help people get through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”
The study authors and Padamsee did not disclose any relevant financial relationship.
medRxiv. Published online February 7, 2022. Summary
Marcia Frellick is a Chicago-based freelance journalist. She has previously written for the Chicago Tribune, Science News, and Nurse.com, and served as an editor for the Chicago Sun-Times, the Cincinnati Enquirer, and the St. Cloud (Minnesota) Times. Follow her on Twitter at @mfrellick.
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