Fake News & Trust in NTD Health Programs
Together with the Global Schistosomiasis Alliance, the COR-NTD Secretariat hosted an online meeting on "Fake News & Trust in NTD Health Programs" to identify operational research questions for best practices in countering misinformation and empowering communities to identify fact from fiction, relative to NTD control programs.
Research Challenge: How can misinformation and loss of trust in health experts and services be mitigated and/or countered by improved community-led/supported NTD control programs? This session explores challenges of establishing trusting relationships and enabling sustainable health education in communities to facilitate the rolling out of NTD control programs.
Session summary: This session highlights common causes of misinformation in communities about health-related topics in general, and NTD control measures in particular, and identifies operational research priorities for preventive and corrective strategies. The session includes specific and general case studies in NTD programs reported by researchers, national control programs, and partners, where misinformation influenced mistrust and low uptake of health services. Transferable lessons learned from rumour management during pandemics are shared. The COVID-19 health crisis has considerably fuelled misinformation campaigns, highlighting the need for strategies to build trust and sustain community participation in NTD control programs. The community response to NTD intervention programs might be weakened post-COVID times, given the dependency of control programs on health education and acceptance by the community. As such, NTD programs need guidance on how to mitigate misinformation and increase trust in health personnel and services within communities. Presentations on case studies around misinformation in the implementation of NTD-related health services will be given i.e:
- Insights from schistosomiasis MDA in Guinea Conakry where mistrust in authorities and inadequate social mobilization hampered control programme efforts. By Mr. Cosmas Ndellejong (Lead Technical Advisor –schistosomiasis & STHs, Sightsavers)
- Community-led health education of peers to counter loss of trust in health specialists and services? An episode from Bokito in rural Cameroon. By Dr Justin Komguep Nono (Ministry of Scientific Research and Innovation of Cameroon)
- Opposing misinformation, what we can learn from pandemic crises for long-term health system gains. By Dr Kuor Kumoji (Snr.Technical Advisor, Research & Evaluation, John Hopkins University Centre for Communication Programs).
Breakout discussion groups:
- Session1: Identifying a misinformed community (moderated by Cosmas Ndellejong)
- Session 2: Mitigating misinformation in the community (moderated by Justin Nono)
- Session 3: Ensuring the success of mitigation strategies against misinformation in the community (moderated by Kuor Kumoji)
With discussion around these talks and breakout sessions, this session explores operational research questions to help define, through future studies, best practices in the engagement and health education of communities, and guidance for countering misinformation and empowering communities to identify fact from fiction, relative to NTD control programs.