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Abstract

Over the past 22 months or so, we have all worked and lived through a total societal event. We still are. It has been really the first time when, as public health practitioners and as people, we have been faced with the full impact of how much technological progress has changed how we connect with each other, how we make decisions, how we enact health behaviors, and how we influence each other in personal and professional spheres. In effect, we have experienced amplification and spread of information of all kinds, including concerns, questions, rumors, misinformation, and information of varying quality. WHO describes this phenomenon as an “infodemic.” Infodemics intensify when there are shocks to the system. The shocks can include new worrying scientific information, new programmatic guidance, new disease dynamics (like the emergence of a new variant of a virus), evidence of harm (like violence against health care workers or detection of a cluster of adverse events to a medication or vaccine), or rumors of any of the above.

Infodemics have become more intense and can potentially cause more harm because of the changes in the digitized society, the challenges of the information ecosystem, the changes in the dynamics in the relationship of people to health information, and the factors leading to health behaviors. Therefore, responding to the infodemic is so multidimensional that we need to think about it as a new public health threat that has emerged through the changes in the societal dynamics and lifestyles – just like noncommunicable diseases that emerged through societal change, for example. To respond to it, we need to adapt our public health practice and health systems, using human-centered approaches to evolve the work towards health and well-being of all people. Infodemic management is a new public health practice that can help public health adapt to these challenges.

The health system and libraries can work together in preventing, preparing, and responding to infodemics in several ways: 1) libraries are trusted community places that connect people. Because the infodemic dynamic plays out at an individual level, having trusted spaces to search for and discuss health information is vital. Trust is important in supporting health behaviors; 2) libraries also play a role by trying to be the trusted buffer between the infodemic and people they are serving. Librarians with specialist backgrounds who work in settings like schools or medical libraries who also can offer infodemic management resources appropriate to their audiences; 3) the interface between libraries and people is the important trusted relationship for health education and promotion of all literacies – information, media, digital, and health literacy.

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/content/papers/10.5339/qproc.2022.ehil2021.12
2022-01-13
2022-01-21
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