YOUNG HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS FIGHTING MISINFORMATION IN SOCIAL NETWORKS


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Anti-vaccination rhetoric utilises social media to foster online spaces that strengthen and popularise anti-vaccination discourses. Social media is often acting as a "breeding ground" for false and harmful information about the safety of vaccines and fuelling parents' fears of side-effects. 

Organisations and Institutions that are credible sources for information are often reluctant to engage in social media and on the rare occasions they do so, they cannot follow the fast pace of interactivity that social networks require. 

At the same time, anti-vaccination campaigns are gathering pace, anti-vaccination websites and blogs are becoming more and more "professional" looking, offering data and "evidence" that looks more and more credible and in many cases, they often appear at the top of Google search results and above the credible and official sources of information related to vaccinations. The quantity of the content they include, often updates, sharing through social media and multiple links directed to these sites help them to be highly ranked by Google. Internet users are often not accustomed to checking the credibility of the source of the information they find when Google searching and the professional look of these websites further contributes to the confusion.

Word of mouth in the era of social networks has reached a totally new scale of impact. Sharing in social media is fast and easy. Bad news, conspiracy theories, false but sound facts, are spread fast and on a large scale. People tend to trust the views and advice from friends more than they trust information coming from organisations and institutions largely seen as part of the establishment. Anti-vaccination campaigns are taking advantage of the very nature of people and social networks, spreading their messages fast and broadly.

Healthcare professionals as individuals are largely seen by the public as a very credible source of information on health-related issues. Mobilising HCPs to actively advocate vaccinations to patients by stating the facts, the potential infections risks and addressing misconceptions, myths and fake data is a primary target of many initiatives and interventions. HCPs engagement though is often limited due to time constraints and a lack of skill and evidence needed. In addition, not all people are patients or visit practices for advice.

Young healthcare professionals, using social media at a personal level, are best placed to step up and counter anti-vaccination messages, moving the balance towards credible evidence-based information in relation to vaccination benefits. They feel comfortable being active in social networks and they usually have large personal networks of friends and clients. They are seen by their friends as a credible source of information on health-related issues and their recommendation and advice are heard and followed.

The Social Media Healthcare Campaign aims to mobilise young healthcare professionals to become active advocates of vaccinations in the social networks, disseminate the real facts through their personal accounts, intervene in discussions addressing the fake facts and offer a credible recommendation to their friends, relatives and clients.


➡️ A taskforce of Young Healthcare Professionals 

We aim to create a network of young healthcare professionals who will pledge their support to the campaign and undertake the role of spreading messages related to vaccination benefits through their personal social networks. 

➡️ Shaping the Messages 

Specific communications campaigns will be tested through the suggestion box tool of the platform allowing members to vote, make suggestions and actively participate in shaping the messages and the campaigns enhancing ownership of the initiative. Members will be mobilised to contribute ideas, make suggestions and propose activities based on the actual needs using dedicated suggestion forms available through the campaign's website and the platform. 

➡️ Ready to use materials and messages 

Members of the network will receive regularly factsheets and updates with the latest evidence related to vaccine-preventable diseases that they could publish in their profiles or use them every time they choose to intervene in a discussion. Members of the network will regularly receive ready to share messages through their personal accounts. The messages format, text and design will be fresh, modern and interesting to facilitate dissemination through social media. Dedicated web apps will allow users to test their knowledge against the evidence and the real facts using a reverse communication strategy; e.g. web app users will be asked to state their level of agreement on selected fake facts by moving an agree/disagree bar. In the end, the rating will be provided along with the actual facts and the sources they are coming from. 

➡️ Educate the Educators  

Free-to-view webinars series will offer to members useful practical advice on how to navigate in social media and build their public profiles and reputation through becoming a credible source of information and advice for friends and clients. 

 

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Are you a young healthcare professional and you want to become a member of the task force?  Click here to send us the details  
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Do you want to suggest an activity to be included in the campaign or nominate yourself to present one of the webinars? Click here to send us the details  

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