77th WHA: Stakeholders Address Health Communication Strategies Amid Disinformation Era

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75th World Health Assembly.

At the 77th World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva, a side event called “Health Communication in the Era of Disinformation: Priorities for Stakeholders in 2024 and Beyond” brought together experts and leaders to discuss the growing problem of health misinformation and its global impact.

The event emphasised the critical need for coordinated efforts, strategic communication and strong policy measures to effectively combat health misinformation.

Founder of the Centre for Countering Digital Hate, Mr. Imran Ahmed highlighted the severe consequences of vaccine misinformation, which he stated is lowering vaccination rates and causing an increase in disease, disability and death worldwide. Ahmed pointed out that misinformation thrives due to its algorithmic advantage, creating controversy that boosts social media ad revenue. He called for increased transparency and accountability to change this narrative and succeed in the fight against misinformation.

CDC Africa’s head of the division of policy, health diplomacy, and communication, Dr. Benjamin Djoudalbaye discussed strategies for combating misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic. He emphasised using various African languages to connect with local populations effectively and combat misinformation. Djoudalbaye highlighted that this approach was part of a broader strategy involving collaboration, partnerships, research, monitoring and policy transparency.

Managing director of Nigeria Health Watch, Mrs. Vivianne Ihekweazu stressed the importance of trust during health crises, noting that a lack of information leads to misinformation and disinformation filling the gap. She emphasised the essential role of trust in an effective response, especially in countries facing trust issues between the government and its citizens.

WHO’s director of communications, Ms. Gabby Stern mentioned that health is often not a top priority for political leaders and the affluent, contributing to the spread of misinformation challenges. Stern called for prioritising health issues globally.

Director of public partnerships at the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Mr. Saul Walker talked about CEPI’s vision of developing a new vaccine within 100 days in response to future pandemic threats. He stressed the significance of effective communication in achieving this goal, known as the ‘100 Days’ Mission.

CEO of Health AI, Dr. Ricardo Baptista Leite called for global collaboration and courage in combating health crises misinformation and disinformation. He emphasised the need for collaborative work to succeed in this endeavour.

Executive director of the Pandemic Action Network, Ms. Eloise Todd wrapped up the event by highlighting the start of a unified effort against misinformation. Todd stressed the importance of intensifying efforts to combat misinformation and disinformation and turning that change into reality.

Racheal Abujah
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