To develop infodemic management capacities for the future, WHO convened a technical consultation on building a global curriculum for infodemic management on 21-23 March in Belgrade, Serbia. Hosted by the School of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of Belgrade, the consultation brought together 47 representatives of academia, public health and professional associations, and health authorities from six WHO regions.
Caption: Participants of the WHO Technical Consultation in front of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Belgrade, March 21, 2023
Credit: WHO/Damir Begovic
Speaking about the importance of moment, Stefan Mandić-Rajčević, coordinator of the Laboratory for infodemiology and infodemic management at the University of Belgrade, noted: “The Faculty of Medicine recognized the importance of infodemic management early on during the pandemic, and we have grown a network which allowed us to improve our response and reduce the harms of the infodemic in Serbia.” Rafaela Rosário from University of Minho in Portugal echoed the significance of integrating infodemic management in teaching and training to prepare public health professionals for new pandemic threats: “infodemiology and Infodemic management are new skills in the public health that will help us better respond to health threats in the future.”
Caption: Lazar Davidović, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Belgrade, Serbia
Credit: WHO/Damir Begovic
With the aim to (i) define the capacities for mainstreaming infodemic management in learning and training programmes, and (ii) mapping integration approaches in existing education and learning programmes, the consultation offered a platform for a productive discussion. Tim Nguyen, WHO Unit Head for High Impact Events Preparedness highlighted previously developed competencies for infodemic management as a foundation to build upon: “The competency framework defines the key functions of an Infodemic manager throughout the epidemic response cycle and how adaptive they become as the epidemic evolves.” On integrating infodemic management into training programmes, Elil Renganathan from Sunway University, Malaysia, said: “This is an evolution of public health capacities and skillsets that needs a long-term vision.”
Bringing representatives of both academia and practice together prompted robust discussion of various aspects of the infodemic management from theory to application to training programmes. “Infodemic has brought us to the new challenges of misinformation. Evidence-based and data-driven decisions are an important part of infodemic management and they have supercharged our community engagement to a new level,” shared Santi Indra Astuti from Islamic University of Bandung in Indonesia, who also represents an anti-hoax civil society organization MAFINDO.
An important part of teaching infodemic management is teaching via simulation to build immersive worlds where infodemics happen and where students are thrust into problem-solving challenges that reflect real-world events. The participants joined colleagues from the local health authorities in a simulation on generating infodemic insights and recommendations for action, followed by deconstructing the elements of design and delivery of such teaching approaches. “We are excited about the prospect of the concept of the simulation into the Eastern Mediterranean Field Epidemiology training programmes and into Arabic,” said Haitham Bashier of the Eastern Mediterranean Public Health Network (EMPHNET).
A meeting report and a plan for mainstreaming infodemic management into learning and teaching programmes is forthcoming.