ASHM worked with CCHS and Childfund to deliver a reliable source of emerging and evidence-based information on COVID-19 to 250 health workers across PNG through – text message, email and WhatsApp. WhatsApp provided an interactive space to debunk misinformation in real time.
During COVID-19 misinformation has been prolific throughout Papua New Guinea (PNG) where social media platforms like Facebook create a space for people to share rumors and non-evidenced based information. Without other sources of information these rumors have affected peoples understanding of COVID-19 and measures to protect themselves and community.
Anecdotal reports from health workers have indicated that these rumors have had expanded impacts with community members avoiding routine childhood immunizations due to fears about COVID-19 or COVID-19 vaccines.
Adopting an infodemic management approach and informed by 3 needs assessments regular messaging was provided by the ASHM global team through WhatsApp, email and text message. This information was tailored to the current advise provided by the PNG government to reinforce messaging and evidence associated with COVID-19 vaccination. The Community of Practice approach also gave health workers the opportunity to share the rumors or seek clarification for things they were unsure about. Ways to discuss information with vaccine hesitant community members were also explored and approaches shared.
In September 2022, ASHM conducted a multi-method evaluation to identify outcomes and impact of the COVID-19 Support WhatsApp Groups.
The findings indicated that health workers who participated in the survey found the COVID-19 WhatsApp support group to be helpful and provided factual information. The messaging and discussions within the group also encouraged health workers to get vaccinated themselves and provided the discussion tools to encouraged others to get vaccinated. Of the respondents who participated in the survey 75% indicated a willingness to continue to be involved with the WhatsApp groups.
The results of this evaluation will guide future developments of communities of practice (CoP). Platforms like WhatsApp are well utilized throughout the pacific and it creates an opportunity to connect health workers to share experiences and strategies. A new CoP is currently being established to support Mpox throughout the region. If you are interested in finding out more please contact email@example.com.