American Univesity of Beirut

FHS researchers analyze the social context of health information and misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lebanon.

​​The COVID-19 pandemic is accompanied by a surge of misinformation since its beginning in December 2019.  This global infodemic phenomenon has taken the world by storm. False information and variations in interpretations about the pandemic and mitigation interventions/strategies continue to spread at a faster pace than the relevant scientific evidence.

In a time of rapid information exchange, public health measures, and state interventions to mitigate the spread of the virus,  it is important to understand how information is communicated and shared to uncover possible reasons for the general public's action and inaction.

The Lebanese state is struggling to implement and enforce different measures and interventions to control and limit the spread of COVID-19, yet adherence by the general public is still not uniform.

Professors Jihad Makhoul and Tamar Kabakian-Khasholian together with Lea Chaiban, an MPH student at the Health Promotion and Community Health Department from the Faculty of Health Sciences analyzed how political, economic, and social contexts in the country, and not only the content of the messages that people receive from officials, affect how they react on the information. Referring to social and risk communication theory, the paper identifies and analyzes how societal aspects in a low-middle income country that is overwrought with social, economic, and political inequalities continue to undermine the efforts to contain the spread.

By using Lebanon as an example, the paper argues that people's access to, interpretation of, and act on information is affected by the collectivist nature of society, the dire socioeconomic conditions of the country, a history of state failures, and a stark general mistrust in the national health system. Information alone is not enough to change people's behaviors; the paper ends with a discussion on implications and recommendations to inform states' responses in similar contexts. 

To read the full study, please CLICK HERE.

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