5th WHO Infodemic Management Conference: Towards measuring burden of infodemic

WHO recently organized the 5th Infodemic management conference, cosponsored by the US Centred for Disease Control and Prevention. Four small working sessions were held between 2 – 11 November 2021.

An infodemic is an overflow of information of varying quality, including of mis/disinformation, that surges across digital and physical environments during an acute public health event. It cannot be eliminated but it can be managed by a data and evidence-driven, human-centered practice that strengthens public health systems to support behavior change, even during health emergencies.

There is a need for rigorous and standardized approaches to measuring infodemic impact. This conference aimed to develop a work plan to foster implementation of the work stream one of the WHO research agenda for managing infodemics, the metrics and indicators for measuring the burden of the infodemic and related interventions.

Over the four sessions 71 participants from academia, health authorities, civil society and technical cooperation partners heard from 13 expert speakers and spent 12 hours together in discussions. Participants discussed the burden of the infodemic and the need to develop measurement tools that measure the infodemic, to develop interventions targeted at different levels, and to provide evidence of what works with tackling the infodemic. The key outcomes and actions for a work plan going forward included:

  • Developing standardized definitions. A set of standardized definitions related to infodemic measurement and infodemic management will be developed through the establishment of a working group and validated through a Delphi process.
  • Improving the concept map: A working group will be established that will review and improve the concept map so that it reflects or reconciles different perspectives and disciplines that consider ecosystem, individual, health system and societal factors contributing to the infodemic. This concept map will be validated through a Delphi process.
  • Conducting a desk review of evidence, tools and data sources: A working group will be established to draft a protocol for conducting a desk review of evidence, tools and data sources related to infodemic measurement.
  • Setting up a technical working group: A working group will be established that will review and improve different policy, practice and research priorities on a rolling basis and work towards alignment of infodemic management measurement efforts at the global level by different stakeholders.
  • Addressing immediate priorities for COVID-19 recovery and resilience building: These include developing process models for evaluation and intervention development, measuring the economic cost of the COVID-19 infodemic, identifying data sources and measures, and creating harmonised tools for measurement of information diet and exposure.

The work will continue post-conference with an open call for those in health authorities and academia who work in health status measurement and misinformation to participate in working groups and Delphi exercises to work towards these outcomes. It is anticipated that action on these priority areas will further research and effective public health programming related to data-driven infodemic management.

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