Special Issue "COVID-19 Global Threat: Information or Panic"

A special issue of International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (ISSN 1660-4601). This special issue belongs to the section "Health Communication".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 20 December 2021.

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Carlos de las Heras-Pedrosa
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Advertising and Public Relations, Faculty of Communication Sciences, University of Málaga, 29071 Málaga, Spain
Interests: health communication; open innovation; tourism communication; communication and social media; influencers on social media; institutional communication; stakeholder engagement
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Dr. Carmen Jambrino-Maldonado
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Departament of Business Administration, Universidad de Málaga, 29071 Malaga, Spain
Interests: : communication and social media; open innovation; corporate reputation; health communication; smart tourism destination; influencers on social media
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Dr. Patricia P. Iglesias-Sánchez
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Departament of Business Administration, Universidad de Málaga, 29071 Malaga, Spain
Interests: open innovation; communication and social media; evaluation of the impact of social media; empowerment of consumers; new scenarios of consumption; trust and co-creation environment; involvement of stakeholders
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Dr. Jose Ignacio Peláez-Sánchez
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Applied Social Research Center (CISA). Dpto. Languajes and Computer Sciences. Biomedical Research Institute (IBIMA). Universidad de Málaga, Malaga, Spain
Interests: Opinion Mining; Sentiment Analysis; Consistency; Aggregation operators; Medical Diagnostic

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Health communication plays an important role for citizens. Society is increasingly using the Internet to obtain health information, share experiences related to pathological processes, or meet people with similar physical or psychological conditions. As information and communication technologies are being used in the field of health, terms such as e-patient or e-health are widely used. It demonstrates that citizens are aware of health topics and actively participate in the decision-making process and discussion in health issues. Social networks play a relevant role in this sense, with a progressive increase in their use in the health field. Factors such as accessibility, immediacy, or their potential to communicate bidirectionally with different audiences allow for active communication. Public health organizations face challenges in communication through traditional media and social networks and using them to promote interaction and collaboration between patients, families, and health professionals. However, the democratization of information through social media in the field of health means that social networks, blogs, or mobile social media have developed peer communication with an increasingly participative audience but above all, it has also made it more credible. Therefore, it confers greater communicational power to citizens and professionals in the sector when their messages reach a greater number of people. An increasing number of messages disseminated by social networks and mobile social networks are false and users do not contrast them when receiving them from friends or acquaintances. In the case of COVID-19, facts, not fear, will stop it, but how should public health organizations report it? Currently, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the public health organizations of all countries are reporting the measures to be taken against the virus, each country has its own information and communication strategies. At the same time, it is a topic of special interest for the media that open their news with the situation of the COVID-19 in the world and their own countries. In this panorama of world crisis, the over-information that citizens receive through mass media and social networks is a key factor. Millions of messages are transmitted containing inaccurate information, creating moments of uncertainty, panic, and, in many cases, even xenophobia against other citizens, such as Chinese or Italians. To fight against xenophobia, the #IamNotAVirus has been used, in different languages, to try to raise awareness so that citizens are not discriminated against because of their race or home country. This Special Issue will analyze the communicative phenomenon that is happening in the world with respect to COVID-19 with articles of communication and health exploring the different information strategies that public health organizations use and the effects of fake news on social networks.

Dr. Carlos de las Heras-Pedrosa
Dr. Carmen Jambrino-Maldonado
Dr. Patricia P. Iglesias-Sánchez
Dr. José Ignacio Peláez-Sánchez
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • health
  • health communication
  • social media
  • social networks
  • influencers on social media
  • fake news
  • over-information
  • xenophobia

Published Papers (25 papers)

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Article
Knowledge and Anxiety about COVID-19 in the State of Qatar, and the Middle East and North Africa Region—A Cross Sectional Study
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(12), 6439; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph18126439 - 14 Jun 2021
Viewed by 553
Abstract
While the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic wreaked havoc across the globe, we have witnessed substantial mis- and disinformation regarding various aspects of the disease. We conducted a cross-sectional study using a self-administered questionnaire for the general public (recruited via social media) and [...] Read more.
While the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic wreaked havoc across the globe, we have witnessed substantial mis- and disinformation regarding various aspects of the disease. We conducted a cross-sectional study using a self-administered questionnaire for the general public (recruited via social media) and healthcare workers (recruited via email) from the State of Qatar, and the Middle East and North Africa region to understand the knowledge of and anxiety levels around COVID-19 (April–June 2020) during the early stage of the pandemic. The final dataset used for the analysis comprised of 1658 questionnaires (53.0% of 3129 received questionnaires; 1337 [80.6%] from the general public survey and 321 [19.4%] from the healthcare survey). Knowledge about COVID-19 was significantly different across the two survey populations, with a much higher proportion of healthcare workers possessing better COVID-19 knowledge than the general public (62.9% vs. 30.0%, p < 0.0001). A reverse effect was observed for anxiety, with a higher proportion of very anxious (or really frightened) respondents among the general public compared to healthcare workers (27.5% vs. 11.5%, p < 0.0001). A higher proportion of the general public tended to overestimate their chance of dying if they become ill with COVID-19, with 251 (18.7%) reporting the chance of dying (once COVID-19 positive) to be ≥25% versus 19 (5.9%) of healthcare workers (p < 0.0001). Good knowledge about COVID-19 was associated with low levels of anxiety. Panic and unfounded anxiety, as well as casual and carefree attitudes, can propel risk taking and mistake-making, thereby increasing vulnerability. It is important that governments, public health agencies, healthcare workers, and civil society organizations keep themselves updated regarding scientific developments and that they relay messages to the community in an honest, transparent, unbiased, and timely manner. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue COVID-19 Global Threat: Information or Panic)
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Article
Analyzing Twitter Data to Evaluate People’s Attitudes towards Public Health Policies and Events in the Era of COVID-19
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(12), 6272; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph18126272 - 10 Jun 2021
Viewed by 355
Abstract
Policymakers and relevant public health authorities can analyze people’s attitudes towards public health policies and events using sentiment analysis. Sentiment analysis focuses on classifying and analyzing text sentiments. A Twitter sentiment analysis has the potential to monitor people’s attitudes towards public health policies [...] Read more.
Policymakers and relevant public health authorities can analyze people’s attitudes towards public health policies and events using sentiment analysis. Sentiment analysis focuses on classifying and analyzing text sentiments. A Twitter sentiment analysis has the potential to monitor people’s attitudes towards public health policies and events. Here, we explore the feasibility of using Twitter data to build a surveillance system for monitoring people’s attitudes towards public health policies and events since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this study, we conducted a sentiment analysis of Twitter data. We analyzed the relationship between the sentiment changes in COVID-19-related tweets and public health policies and events. Furthermore, to improve the performance of the early trained model, we developed a data preprocessing approach by using the pre-trained model and early Twitter data, which were available at the beginning of the pandemic. Our study identified a strong correlation between the sentiment changes in COVID-19-related Twitter data and public health policies and events. Additionally, the experimental results suggested that the data preprocessing approach improved the performance of the early trained model. This study verified the feasibility of developing a fast and low-human-effort surveillance system for monitoring people’s attitudes towards public health policies and events during a pandemic by analyzing Twitter data. Based on the pre-trained model and early Twitter data, we can quickly build a model for the surveillance system. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue COVID-19 Global Threat: Information or Panic)
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Article
Lack of Informations about COVID-19 Vaccine: From Implications to Intervention for Supporting Public Health Communications in COVID-19 Pandemic
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(11), 6141; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph18116141 - 07 Jun 2021
Viewed by 497
Abstract
Lack of knowledge and mistrust towards vaccines represent a challenge in achieving the vaccination coverage required for population immunity. The aim of this study is to examine the opinion that specific demographic groups have about COVID-19 vaccination, in order to detect potential fears [...] Read more.
Lack of knowledge and mistrust towards vaccines represent a challenge in achieving the vaccination coverage required for population immunity. The aim of this study is to examine the opinion that specific demographic groups have about COVID-19 vaccination, in order to detect potential fears and reasons for negative attitudes towards vaccination, and to gain knowledge on how to prepare strategies to eliminate possible misinformation that could affect vaccine hesitancy. The data collection approach was based on online questionnaire surveys, divided into three groups of questions that followed the main postulates of the health belief theory—a theory that helps understanding a behaviour of the public in some concrete surrounding in receiving preventive measures. Ordinary least squares regression analyses were used to examine the influence of individual factors on refusing the vaccine, and to provide information on the perception of participants on the danger of COVID-19 infection, and on potential barriers that could retard the vaccine utility. There was an equal proportion of participants (total number 276) who planned on receiving the COVID-19 vaccine (37%), and of those who did not (36.3%). The rest (26.7%) of participants were still indecisive. Our results indicated that attitudes on whether to receive the vaccine, on how serious consequences might be if getting the infection, as well as a suspicious towards the vaccine efficacy and the fear of the vaccine potential side effects, may depend on participants’ age (<40 vs. >40 years) and on whether they are healthcare workers or not. The barriers that make participants‘ unsure about of receiving the vaccine, such as a distrust in the vaccine efficacy and safety, may vary in different socio-demographic groups and depending on which is the point of time in the course of the pandemic development, as well as on the vaccine availability and experience in using certain vaccine formulas. There is a pressing need for health services to continuously provide information to the general population, and to address the root causes of mistrust through improved communication, using a wide range of policies, interventions and technologies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue COVID-19 Global Threat: Information or Panic)
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Article
Continent-Wide Analysis of COVID 19: Total Cases, Deaths, Tests, Socio-Economic, and Morbidity Factors Associated to the Mortality Rate, and Forecasting Analysis in 2020–2021
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(10), 5350; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph18105350 - 18 May 2021
Viewed by 525
Abstract
Background: The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) was first reported in China in December 2019 and has become a pandemic that resulted in more than one million deaths and infected over 35 million people worldwide. In this study, a continent-wide analysis [...] Read more.
Background: The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) was first reported in China in December 2019 and has become a pandemic that resulted in more than one million deaths and infected over 35 million people worldwide. In this study, a continent-wide analysis of COVID-19 cases from 31st December 2019 to 14th June 2020 was performed along with socio-economic factors associated with mortality rates as well as a predicted future scenario of COVID-19 cases until the end of 2020. Methods: Epidemiological and statistical tools such as linear regression, Pearson’s correlation analysis, and the Auto Regressive Integrated Moving Average (ARIMA) model were used in this study. Results: This study shows that the highest number of cases per million population was recorded in Europe, while the trend of new cases is lowest in Africa. The mortality rates in different continents were as follows: North America 4.57%, Europe 3.74%, South America 3.87%, Africa 3.49%, Oceania and Asia less than 2%. Linear regression analysis showed that hospital beds, GDP, diabetes, and higher average age were the significant risk factors for mortality in different continents. The forecasting analysis since the first case of COVID-19 until 1st January 2021 showed that the worst scenario at the end of 2020 predicts a range from 0 to 300,000 daily new cases and a range from 0 to 16,000 daily new deaths. Conclusion: Epidemiological and clinical features of COVID-19 should be better defined, since they can play an import role in future strategies to control this pandemic. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue COVID-19 Global Threat: Information or Panic)
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Article
Infodemic and Fake News in Spain during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(4), 1781; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph18041781 - 12 Feb 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1756
Abstract
Internet, new technologies and social networks have changed the consumption and dissemination of information. The world is witnessing the proliferation of so-called false news, especially since the beginning of 2020, when COVID-19 became the main issue on the global agenda. Alleged government actions, [...] Read more.
Internet, new technologies and social networks have changed the consumption and dissemination of information. The world is witnessing the proliferation of so-called false news, especially since the beginning of 2020, when COVID-19 became the main issue on the global agenda. Alleged government actions, remedies, advice, etc., are the cause of a multitude of messages that are often false. Through surveys (1115 responses were obtained) and a review of the literature, we explore how the proliferation of COVID-19’s false news affects and impacts public opinion in Spain. We also examine how citizens are being informed about the pandemic, identify the main channels of communication used and discover the impact of misinformation. The main conclusions are that, in Spain, citizens are interested in information related to the coronavirus, but there is a lack of media credibility and reliability; the social networks and instant messaging are considered the channels that transmit the greatest amount of false news. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue COVID-19 Global Threat: Information or Panic)
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Article
The Role of Societal Aspects in the Formation of Official COVID-19 Reports: A Data-Driven Analysis
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(4), 1505; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph18041505 - 05 Feb 2021
Viewed by 855
Abstract
This paper investigates the role of socioeconomic considerations in the formation of official COVID-19 reports. To this end, we employ a dataset that contains 1159 pre-processed indicators from the World Bank Group GovData360 and TCdata360 platforms and an additional 8 COVID-19 variables generated [...] Read more.
This paper investigates the role of socioeconomic considerations in the formation of official COVID-19 reports. To this end, we employ a dataset that contains 1159 pre-processed indicators from the World Bank Group GovData360 and TCdata360 platforms and an additional 8 COVID-19 variables generated based on reports from 138 countries. During the analysis, a rank-correlation-based complex method is used to identify the time- and space-varying relations between pandemic variables and the main topics of World Bank Group platforms. The results not only draw attention to the importance of factors such as air traffic, tourism, and corruption in report formation but also support further discipline-specific research by mapping and monitoring a wide range of such relationships. To this end, a source code written in R language is attached that allows for the customization of the analysis and provides up-to-date results. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue COVID-19 Global Threat: Information or Panic)
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Article
Journalistic Fact-Checking of Information in Pandemic: Stakeholders, Hoaxes, and Strategies to Fight Disinformation during the COVID-19 Crisis in Spain
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(3), 1227; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph18031227 - 29 Jan 2021
Viewed by 1208
Abstract
The public health crisis created by COVID-19 represents a challenge for journalists and the media. Specialised information in healthcare and science has turned into a need to deal with the current situation as well as the demand for information by society. In this [...] Read more.
The public health crisis created by COVID-19 represents a challenge for journalists and the media. Specialised information in healthcare and science has turned into a need to deal with the current situation as well as the demand for information by society. In this context of increased uncertainty, the circulation of fake news on social networks and messaging applications has proliferated, producing what has been known as ‘infodemic’. This paper is focused on the fact-checking of journalistic content using a combined methodology: content analysis of information denied by the main Spanish fact-checking platforms (Maldita and Newtral) and an in-depth questionnaire to these stakeholders. The results confirm the quantitative and qualitative evolution of disinformation. Quantitatively, more fact-checking is performed during the state of alarm. Qualitatively, hoaxes increase in complexity as the pandemic evolves, in such a way that disinformation engineering takes place, and it is expected to continue until the development of a vaccine. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue COVID-19 Global Threat: Information or Panic)
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Article
COVID-19, Fake News, and Vaccines: Should Regulation Be Implemented?
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(2), 744; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph18020744 - 16 Jan 2021
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 3982
Abstract
We analysed issues concerning the establishment of compulsory vaccination against COVID-19, as well as the role of misinformation as a disincentive—especially when published by health professionals—and citizen acceptance of measures in this regard. Data from different surveys revealed a high degree of hesitation [...] Read more.
We analysed issues concerning the establishment of compulsory vaccination against COVID-19, as well as the role of misinformation as a disincentive—especially when published by health professionals—and citizen acceptance of measures in this regard. Data from different surveys revealed a high degree of hesitation rather than outright opposition to vaccines. The most frequent complaint related to the COVID-19 vaccination was the fear of side effects. Within the Spanish and European legislative framework, both compulsory vaccination and government regulation of FN (Fake News) appear to be feasible options, counting on sufficient legal support, which could be reinforced by additional amendment. However, following current trends of good governance, policymakers must have public legitimation. Rather than compulsory COVID-19 vaccination, an approach based on education and truthful information, persuading the population of the benefits of a vaccine on a voluntary basis, is recommended. Disagreements between health professionals are positive, but they should be resolved following good practice and the procedures of the code of ethics. Furthermore, citizens do not support the involvement of government authorities in the direct control of news. Collaboration with the media and other organizations should be used instead. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue COVID-19 Global Threat: Information or Panic)
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Article
Antecedents and Consequences of Information Overload in the COVID-19 Pandemic
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(24), 9305; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17249305 - 12 Dec 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 950
Abstract
The global outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in 2020 has significantly affected the information environment as well as the daily life of individuals across the world, with information about COVID-19 dominating all media channels. The information provided at the time of a health [...] Read more.
The global outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in 2020 has significantly affected the information environment as well as the daily life of individuals across the world, with information about COVID-19 dominating all media channels. The information provided at the time of a health crisis like COVID-19 is critical in helping people learn about the disease and the recommendations to prevent infection. However, studies have shown that when people are overwhelmed by too much information (referred to as ‘information overload’), this leads to adverse effects. This study examined the antecedents and consequences of information overload in the context of COVID-19. A survey was conducted among 627 residents in Seoul, South Korea, one of the earliest affected countries in the global outbreak. The results showed that cognitive capacity and the frequency of online news use and interpersonal communication were significant predictors of information overload. Information overload influenced how information is processed; it was associated with the tendency toward greater heuristic processing and less systematic processing. In addition, people were more likely to enact prevention behaviors when the information was processed systematically, as opposed to heuristically. The results are discussed considering both the theoretical and practical implications. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue COVID-19 Global Threat: Information or Panic)
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Article
Resilience and Anti-Stress during COVID-19 Isolation in Spain: An Analysis through Audiovisual Spots
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(23), 8876; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17238876 - 29 Nov 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1305
Abstract
This study analyses broadcasted advertising spots during the COVID-19 isolation period in Spain. It aims to identify the narrative communicative resources and messages spread by companies/brands under the background of a global pandemic, where a common pattern highlighting the social function of brands [...] Read more.
This study analyses broadcasted advertising spots during the COVID-19 isolation period in Spain. It aims to identify the narrative communicative resources and messages spread by companies/brands under the background of a global pandemic, where a common pattern highlighting the social function of brands is supposed, specifically regarding stress and resilience. We propose a mixed method based on the combination of qualitative analysis of the content of a compendium of 71 commercials and statistical analysis to group and test the correlations between some key variables, thus incorporating multivariate analysis with a quantitative method. Our main finding is the collective trend and communicative behaviour in the advertising of companies/brands during isolation, in which a change in the traditional role of advertising communication has occurred, where advertisers have become a key support in combatting the disease and a key support for health and psychological management in the Spanish population. In fact, they act as guardians of resilience and promoters for alleviating stress. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue COVID-19 Global Threat: Information or Panic)
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Article
National Disaster Management System: COVID-19 Case in Korea
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(18), 6691; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17186691 - 14 Sep 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1359
Abstract
The COVID-19 pandemic poses unprecedented challenges for governments and societies around the world and represents a global crisis of hitherto unexperienced proportions. Our research seeks to analyse disaster management systems from a national perspective by examining the Korean management of the COVID-19 crisis [...] Read more.
The COVID-19 pandemic poses unprecedented challenges for governments and societies around the world and represents a global crisis of hitherto unexperienced proportions. Our research seeks to analyse disaster management systems from a national perspective by examining the Korean management of the COVID-19 crisis according to a four-phase epidemiological disaster management system. Utilising a meta-study, official documents, reports and interviews, we explore the role of the control tower mechanism related to the life-cycle of disaster management, and Korea’s sustainable containment strategy. This study begins with a discussion of the crisis and disaster management literature and provides specific information related to the Korean government’s response to COVID-19. It continues by detailing specific strategies such as wide-spread testing, tracking, treatment and quarantine that have enabled Korea to prevent wide-spread community transmission. The study concludes emphasising the relevance of systematic national disaster management, providing insight into methods for containment in Korea – a system commended by the WHO. Implications include the extension and the efficient application of disaster management theory by empirical application and integration of concepts. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue COVID-19 Global Threat: Information or Panic)
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Article
The Contagion of Sentiments during the COVID-19 Pandemic Crisis: The Case of Isolation in Spain
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(16), 5918; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17165918 - 14 Aug 2020
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 1541
Abstract
This study examines how confinement measures established during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis affected the emotions of the population. For this purpose, public sentiment on social media and digital ecosystems in Spain is analyzed. We identified affective tones towards media and citizens published on [...] Read more.
This study examines how confinement measures established during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis affected the emotions of the population. For this purpose, public sentiment on social media and digital ecosystems in Spain is analyzed. We identified affective tones towards media and citizens published on social media focusing on six basic emotions: anger, fear, joy, sadness, disgust and uncertainty. The main contribution of this work is the evidence of contagious sentiments and, consequently, the possibility of using this new dimension of social media as a form of a “collective therapy”. This paper contributes to understanding the impact of confinement measures in a pandemic from the point of view of emotional health. This analysis provides a set of practical implications that can guide conceptual and empirical work in health crisis management with an alternative approach, especially useful for decision-making processes facing emergency responses and health crises, even in an unprecedented global health crisis such as the traumatic events caused by the COVID-19 disease. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue COVID-19 Global Threat: Information or Panic)
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Article
Big Data Analysis of Media Reports Related to COVID-19
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(16), 5688; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17165688 - 06 Aug 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1509
Abstract
COVID-19 is lasting longer than expected, which has a huge impact on the economy and on personal life. Each country has a different response method, and the damage scale is also distinct. This study aims to find out how COVID-19-related news was handled [...] Read more.
COVID-19 is lasting longer than expected, which has a huge impact on the economy and on personal life. Each country has a different response method, and the damage scale is also distinct. This study aims to find out how COVID-19-related news was handled in the domestic media to seek ways to minimize the pandemic. The paper focuses on the number of news features by period and by disaster and analyzes related words based on big data. The results of the analysis are as follows. First, in the initial response phase, keywords to identify accurate sources of actual broadcast contents, fake news, social networking service (SNS), etc. were also ranked in the top 20. Second, in the active response phase, when the number of confirmed persons and the government’s countermeasures were announced, more than 100 COVID-19-related articles were issued, and the related words increased rapidly from the initial response stage. Therefore, the fact that COVID-19 has been expressed as a keyword indicates that our society is watching with great interest in the government’s response to the disease. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue COVID-19 Global Threat: Information or Panic)
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Article
Exploring WHO Communication during the COVID 19 Pandemic through the WHO Website Based on W3C Guidelines: Accessible for All?
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(16), 5663; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17165663 - 05 Aug 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1786
Abstract
Health crisis situations generate greater attention and dependence on reliable and truthful information from citizens, especially from those organisations that represent authority on the subject, such as the World Health Organization (WHO). In times of global pandemics such as COVID-19, the WHO message [...] Read more.
Health crisis situations generate greater attention and dependence on reliable and truthful information from citizens, especially from those organisations that represent authority on the subject, such as the World Health Organization (WHO). In times of global pandemics such as COVID-19, the WHO message “health for all” takes on great communicative importance, especially from the point of view of the prevention of the disease and recommendations for action. Therefore, any communication must be understandable and accessible by all types of people, regardless of their technology, language, culture or disability (physical or mental), according to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), taking on special relevance for public health content. This study analysed whether the WHO is accessible in its digital version for all groups of citizens according to the widely accepted standards in the field of the Internet. The conclusion reached was that not all the information is accessible in accordance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1, which implies that there are groups that are, to some extent, left out, especially affecting the elderly. This study can contribute to the development of proposals and suggest ways in which to improve the accessibility of health content to groups especially vulnerable in this pandemic. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue COVID-19 Global Threat: Information or Panic)
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Article
Living in a Multi-Risk Chaotic Condition: Pandemic, Natural Hazards and Complex Emergencies
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(16), 5635; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17165635 - 05 Aug 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1332
Abstract
Humans are living in an uncertain world, with daily risks confronting them from various low to high hazard events, and the COVID-19 pandemic has created its own set of unique risks. Not only has it caused a significant number of fatalities, but in [...] Read more.
Humans are living in an uncertain world, with daily risks confronting them from various low to high hazard events, and the COVID-19 pandemic has created its own set of unique risks. Not only has it caused a significant number of fatalities, but in combination with other hazard sources, it may pose a considerably higher multi-risk. In this paper, three hazardous events are studied through the lens of a concurring pandemic. Several low-probability high-risk scenarios are developed by the combination of a pandemic situation with a natural hazard (e.g., earthquakes or floods) or a complex emergency situation (e.g., mass protests or military movements). The hybrid impacts of these multi-hazard situations are then qualitatively studied on the healthcare systems, and their functionality loss. The paper also discusses the impact of pandemic’s (long-term) temporal effects on the type and recovery duration from these adverse events. Finally, the concept of escape from a hazard, evacuation, sheltering and their potential conflict during a pandemic and a natural hazard is briefly reviewed. The findings show the cascading effects of these multi-hazard scenarios, which are unseen nearly in all risk legislation. This paper is an attempt to urge funding agencies to provide additional grants for multi-hazard risk research. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue COVID-19 Global Threat: Information or Panic)
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Article
Sentiment Analysis and Emotion Understanding during the COVID-19 Pandemic in Spain and Its Impact on Digital Ecosystems
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(15), 5542; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17155542 - 31 Jul 2020
Cited by 12 | Viewed by 3128
Abstract
COVID-19 has changed our lives forever. The world we knew until now has been transformed and nowadays we live in a completely new scenario in a perpetual restructuring transition, in which the way we live, relate, and communicate with others has been altered [...] Read more.
COVID-19 has changed our lives forever. The world we knew until now has been transformed and nowadays we live in a completely new scenario in a perpetual restructuring transition, in which the way we live, relate, and communicate with others has been altered permanently. Within this context, risk communication is playing a decisive role when informing, transmitting, and channeling the flow of information in society. COVID-19 has posed a real pandemic risk management challenge in terms of impact, preparedness, response, and mitigation by governments, health organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), mass media, and stakeholders. In this study, we monitored the digital ecosystems during March and April 2020, and we obtained a sample of 106,261 communications through the analysis of APIs and Web Scraping techniques. This study examines how social media has affected risk communication in uncertain contexts and its impact on the emotions and sentiments derived from the semantic analysis in Spanish society during the COVID-19 pandemic. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue COVID-19 Global Threat: Information or Panic)
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Article
Effects of Health Information Dissemination on User Follows and Likes during COVID-19 Outbreak in China: Data and Content Analysis
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(14), 5081; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17145081 - 14 Jul 2020
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 1550
Abstract
Background: COVID-19 has greatly attacked China, spreading in the whole world. Articles were posted on many official WeChat accounts to transmit health information about this pandemic. The public also sought related information via social media more frequently. However, little is known about [...] Read more.
Background: COVID-19 has greatly attacked China, spreading in the whole world. Articles were posted on many official WeChat accounts to transmit health information about this pandemic. The public also sought related information via social media more frequently. However, little is known about what kinds of information satisfy them better. This study aimed to explore the characteristics of health information dissemination that affected users’ information behavior on WeChat. Methods: Two-wave data were collected from the top 200 WeChat official accounts on the Xigua website. The data included the change in the number of followers and the total number of likes on each account in a 7-day period, as well as the number of each type of article and headlines about coronavirus. It was used to developed regression models and conduct content analysis to figure out information characteristics in quantity and content. Results: For nonmedical institution accounts in the model, report and story types of articles had positive effects on users’ following behaviors. The number of headlines on coronavirus positively impacts liking behaviors. For medical institution accounts, report and science types had a positive effect, too. In the content analysis, several common characteristics were identified. Conclusions: Characteristics in terms of the quantity and content in health information dissemination contribute to users’ information behavior. In terms of the content in the headlines, via coding and word frequency analysis, organizational structure, multimedia applications, and instructions—the common dimension in different articles—composed the common features in information that impacted users’ liking behaviors. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue COVID-19 Global Threat: Information or Panic)
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Article
Media Exposure and Anxiety during COVID-19: The Mediation Effect of Media Vicarious Traumatization
by and
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(13), 4720; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17134720 - 30 Jun 2020
Cited by 21 | Viewed by 3430
Abstract
The rapid spread and high death rates of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in massive panic and anxiety all over the world. People rely heavily on media for information-seeking during the period of social isolation. This study aimed to explore the relationship between media [...] Read more.
The rapid spread and high death rates of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in massive panic and anxiety all over the world. People rely heavily on media for information-seeking during the period of social isolation. This study aimed to explore the relationship between media exposure and anxiety, and highlighted the underlying mechanisms mediated by the media vicarious traumatization effect. A total of 1118 Chinese citizens participated in the online survey, who were from 30 provinces in mainland China. Results showed that all four types of media (official media, commercial media, social media, and overseas media) cause vicarious traumatization to their audiences to different degrees. It was also found that the impact of media exposure on anxiety was mediated by media vicarious traumatization: there were full mediation effects for commercial media exposure and overseas media exposure, while there were indirect-only mediation effects for official media exposure and social media exposure. Audiences staying in cities with a relatively severe pandemic were more susceptible to the vicarious traumatization caused by commercial media compared to those staying in Hubei. This study expanded the concept and application of vicarious traumatization to the mediated context, and the findings provided insightful advice to media practitioners in the face of major crisis. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue COVID-19 Global Threat: Information or Panic)
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Article
Is Lockdown Bad for Social Anxiety in COVID-19 Regions?: A National Study in The SOR Perspective
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(12), 4561; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17124561 - 24 Jun 2020
Cited by 18 | Viewed by 5465
Abstract
Lockdown measures have been widely used to control and prevent virus transmission in pandemic regions. However, the psychological effects of lockdown measures have been neglected, and the related theoretical research lags behind the practice. The present study aimed to better understand the mechanism [...] Read more.
Lockdown measures have been widely used to control and prevent virus transmission in pandemic regions. However, the psychological effects of lockdown measures have been neglected, and the related theoretical research lags behind the practice. The present study aimed to better understand the mechanism of social anxiety in pandemic regions where the lockdown measures were imposed, based on the conceptual framework of the Stimulus-Organism-Response (SOR). For that, this research investigated how lockdown measures and psychological distance influenced social anxiety in the pandemic region. The Chinese national data was analyzed for the outcome. The results showed that (1) psychological distance mediated the relationship between pandemic COVID-19 severity and social anxiety, (2) lockdown measures buffered the detrimental effect of the COVID-19 pandemic severity on social anxiety, (3) lockdown measures moderated the mediation effect of psychological distancing on social anxiety caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In conclusion, under the SOR framework, the lockdown measures had a buffer effect on social anxiety in pandemic regions, with the mediating role of psychological distancing. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue COVID-19 Global Threat: Information or Panic)
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Article
Demand for Health Information on COVID-19 among Vietnamese
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(12), 4377; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17124377 - 18 Jun 2020
Cited by 35 | Viewed by 2304
Abstract
Due to the rapid spread of coronavirus, Vietnam introduced its first national partial lockdown on April 1st, 2020. The public relied on online sources, whether through official websites or phone-based applications, to acquire up-to-date health information, provide accurate instructions, and limit misinformation. This [...] Read more.
Due to the rapid spread of coronavirus, Vietnam introduced its first national partial lockdown on April 1st, 2020. The public relied on online sources, whether through official websites or phone-based applications, to acquire up-to-date health information, provide accurate instructions, and limit misinformation. This study aims to provide insight regarding the current level of awareness of the pandemic, and to identify associated factors in Vietnamese participants to recommend necessary interventions. A cross-sectional study was conducted using a web-based survey during the first week of the lockdown period. There were 341 observations collected using a snowball sampling technique. A Tobit multivariable regression model was used to identify factors associated with the demand for each category of health information. The most requested information was the latest updated news on the epidemic, followed by information about disease symptoms and updated news on the outbreak. The prevalence of diverse socioeconomic, demographic, and ethnic factors in Vietnam requires consideration of the specific health information needs of unique groups. Identifying group-specific demands would be helpful to provide proper information to fulfill each population group’s needs. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue COVID-19 Global Threat: Information or Panic)
Article
A Multidimensional Model of Public Health Approaches Against COVID-19
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(11), 3780; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17113780 - 26 May 2020
Cited by 14 | Viewed by 1657
Abstract
COVID-19 is appearing as one of the most fetal disease of the world’s history and has caused a global health emergency. Therefore, this study was designed with the aim to address the issue of public response against COVID-19. The literature lacks studies on [...] Read more.
COVID-19 is appearing as one of the most fetal disease of the world’s history and has caused a global health emergency. Therefore, this study was designed with the aim to address the issue of public response against COVID-19. The literature lacks studies on social aspects of COVID-19. Therefore, the current study is an attempt to investigate its social aspects and suggest a theoretical structural equation model to examine the associations between social media exposure, awareness, and information exchange and preventive behavior and to determine the indirect as well as direct impact of social media exposure on preventive behavior from the viewpoints of awareness and information exchange. The current empirical investigation was held in Pakistan, and the collected survey data from 500 respondents through social media tools were utilized to examine the associations between studied variables as stated in the anticipated study model. The findings of the study indicate that social media exposure has no significant and direct effect on preventive behavior. Social media exposure influences preventive behavior indirectly through awareness and information exchange. In addition, awareness and information exchange have significant and direct effects on preventive behavior. Findings are valuable for health administrators, governments, policymakers, and social scientists, specifically for individuals whose situations are like those in Pakistan. This research validates how social media exposure indirectly effects preventive behavior concerning COVID-19 and explains the paths of effect through awareness or information exchange. To the best of our knowledge, there is no work at present that covers this gap, for this reason the authors propose a new model. The conceptual model offers valuable information for policymakers and practitioners to enhance preventive behavior through the adoption of appropriate awareness strategies and information exchange and social media strategies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue COVID-19 Global Threat: Information or Panic)
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Article
Coverage of Health Information by Different Sources in Communities: Implication for COVID-19 Epidemic Response
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(10), 3577; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17103577 - 20 May 2020
Cited by 54 | Viewed by 2813
Abstract
Health personnel and community workers are at the front line of the COVID-19 emergency response and need to be equipped with adequate knowledge related to epidemics for an effective response. This study aimed to identify the coverage of COVID-19 health information via different [...] Read more.
Health personnel and community workers are at the front line of the COVID-19 emergency response and need to be equipped with adequate knowledge related to epidemics for an effective response. This study aimed to identify the coverage of COVID-19 health information via different sources accessed by health workers and community workers in Vietnam. A cross-sectional study using a web-based survey was carried out from January to February 2020 in Vietnam. Respondent-driven sampling (RDS) was used for recruiting participants. We utilized the exploratory factor analysis (EFA) to examine the construct validity of the questionnaire. A higher percentage of participants knew about “Clinical and pathogen characteristics of COVID-19”, compared to “Regulations and policies related to COVID-19”. The percentage of participants accessing the information on “Guidelines and policies on prevention and control of COVID-19” was the lowest, especially among medical students. “Mass media and peer-educators” channels had a higher score of accessing COVID-19 information, compared to “Organizations/ agencies/ associations” sources. Participants consumed most of their COVID-19 information via “Internet, online newspapers, social networks”. Our findings indicate an urgency to re-design training programs and communication activities for a more effective dissemination of information related to the COVID-19 epidemic or epidemics in general. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue COVID-19 Global Threat: Information or Panic)
Article
A Preliminary Evaluation of the Public Risk Perception Related to the COVID-19 Health Emergency in Italy
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(9), 3024; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17093024 - 27 Apr 2020
Cited by 48 | Viewed by 5566
Abstract
Governments faced with the spread of COVID-19 pandemic are adopting strict and severe mitigation measures to influence people’s behaviors. Public perception of health risk plays a key role in the adoption of these actions, in people’s feelings, and in their daily habits. To [...] Read more.
Governments faced with the spread of COVID-19 pandemic are adopting strict and severe mitigation measures to influence people’s behaviors. Public perception of health risk plays a key role in the adoption of these actions, in people’s feelings, and in their daily habits. To support decision makers from international to local levels to face with future sanitary emergencies, this study aims at investigating Italian public perceptions of health risk. To this purpose, a questionnaire was designed and administered within the period of Italian COVID-19 lockdown and quarantine to almost 9000 citizens in Italy and abroad. The obtained results highlight a significative influence that mass media play on both the level of knowledge and the feelings of the respondents. The findings also point out future variations of some perceived behaviors consequent to the COVID-19 outbreak. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue COVID-19 Global Threat: Information or Panic)
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Jump to: Research

Case Report
How to Defend COVID-19 in Taiwan? Talk about People’s Disease Awareness, Attitudes, Behaviors and the Impact of Physical and Mental Health
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(13), 4694; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17134694 - 30 Jun 2020
Cited by 11 | Viewed by 2334
Abstract
This study explored awareness, attitudes, and behavior in relation to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) prevention among Taiwanese citizens and their physical and mental health statuses. Through collection of 2132 questionnaire responses in field research, the present researchers analyzed the data using descriptive statistics [...] Read more.
This study explored awareness, attitudes, and behavior in relation to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) prevention among Taiwanese citizens and their physical and mental health statuses. Through collection of 2132 questionnaire responses in field research, the present researchers analyzed the data using descriptive statistics and various approaches. In conclusion, the public’s high level of willingness to share information, sufficient knowledge of and consensus on epidemic prevention between individuals and families, strict compliance with relevant regulations, effective preventive measures, and adequate public facilities have contributed to control of COVID-19. However, vigilance and awareness of the pandemic in some individuals, epidemic-prevention campaigns, and community-based preventive measures were insufficient. Some citizens subsequently suffered from headaches, anxiety, and mood instability. Furthermore, demographic variables (place of residence, sex, age, and occupation) and physical and mental health status produced various effects on citizens’ awareness, attitude, and behavior regarding epidemic prevention as well as the perceived effect of COVID-19 on physical and mental health. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue COVID-19 Global Threat: Information or Panic)
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Brief Report
Characteristics of YouTube Videos in Spanish on How to Prevent COVID-19
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(13), 4671; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17134671 - 29 Jun 2020
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 1534
Abstract
Objective: To analyze the characteristics of YouTube videos in Spanish on the basic measures to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Methods: On 18 March 2020, a search was conducted on YouTube using the terms “Prevencion Coronavirus” and “Prevencion COVID-19”. We studied the associations [...] Read more.
Objective: To analyze the characteristics of YouTube videos in Spanish on the basic measures to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Methods: On 18 March 2020, a search was conducted on YouTube using the terms “Prevencion Coronavirus” and “Prevencion COVID-19”. We studied the associations between the type of authorship and the country of publication with other variables (such as the number of likes and basic measures to prevent COVID-19 according to the World Health Organization, among others) with univariate analysis and a multiple logistic regression model. Results: A total of 129 videos were evaluated; 37.2% were produced in Mexico (25.6%) and Spain (11.6%), and 56.6% were produced by mass media, including television and newspapers. The most frequently reported basic preventive measure was hand washing (71.3%), and the least frequent was not touching the eyes, nose, and mouth (24.0%). Hoaxes (such as eating garlic or citrus to prevent COVID-19) were detected in 15 videos (10.9%). In terms of authorship, papers produced by health professionals had a higher probability of reporting hand hygiene (OR (95% CI) = 4.20 (1.17–15.09)) and respiratory hygiene (OR (95% CI) = 3.05 (1.22–7.62)) as preventive measures. Conclusion: Information from YouTube in Spanish on basic measures to prevent COVID-19 is usually not very complete and differs according to the type of authorship. Our findings make it possible to guide Spanish-speaking users on the characteristics of the videos to be viewed in order to obtain reliable information. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue COVID-19 Global Threat: Information or Panic)
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