NIMT working towards trust building in Public Health Emergencies -FG

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The Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH), has said that the Nigeria Infodemics Management Team (NIMT), is working to build trust during Public Health emergencies in the country. Mrs Ezioma Madu, Head Advocacy, Social Mobilization, (FMOH), said this at the end a four-day Nigeria Infodemic Management Team Review Workshop, on Saturday in Kano State.

The Newsmen report that the workshop also provided an opportunity to share experiences from state infodemic management teams, a step-down learning from the 2022 Social and Behavior Change Communication (SBCC) Summit in Morocco and review the Nigeria Infodemic Management Operational guidelines.

Madu said that the COVID-19 pandemic incited an unprecedented infodemic highlighting the impact of misinformation, disinformation, and information disseminated with mal-intent on the effectiveness of public health action and national health security.

She said that the four-day workshop examined the country’s public health infodemics, the COVID-19 infodemic, the impact of infodemics on trust in the public health enterprise, and tools and practices to address infodemics.

She said that the workshop built on what is known about risk and crisis communication to generate actionable, targeted insights that state-, local-, and community-based organisations and officials can take to prevent and respond to the negative health effects of an infodemic.

“Specifically, participants and discussants developed a shared understanding of the modern health information ecosystem and examined the impact of infodemics during public health emergency (PHE).

“We examined the public health skills, capacities, and policies that are needed to manage infodemics during a PHE and throughout the disaster management cycle.

“We identified the roles, responsibilities, and partnerships among all relevant organizations and agencies in managing infodemics during a PHE,” she explained.

She added that the NIMT also examined interventions to mitigate the harmful effects of infodemics “mis-, dis-, and malformation” and identify research gaps.

Dr Yahya Disu, who stood in for The Director General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control & Prevention, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, said that in a world where information flows freely and rapidly, it was important to ensure that Nigerians have access to accurate and reliable information, especially during any pandemic.

Disu said that infodemics, or the overabundance of information, both true and false, can be overwhelming, confusing, and can lead to the spread of misinformation, distrust, and fear.

According to him, “this is particularly true in the context of pandemics, where accurate and timely information is essential to curb the spread of the disease and instill trust within communities.”

He said that this is why building and strengthening infodemic management systems as a tool for risk communication and community engagement in the country is worth it.

“It is vital for pandemic preparedness, instilling trust within communities, encouraging positive behavior change, and addressing misinformation and disinformation at its source,” learning from the experiences shared by the state infodemic management showed that community-based stakeholders are critical for the success of infodemic management,” he said.

Also speaking, Ms Racheal Abujah, Senior Health Correspondent, NAN, defined fake news as spreading false information with the intent of deceiving the audience.

Abujah said that what makes the topic so complicated is that Nigerians can sit and scroll on social media and see articles published or promoted with no way of knowing how true the information is.

“At least for me, this was never a topic someone taught me, so I can see why people believe in what’s on the internet.

“However, with the amount of fact-checking softwares and websites, I think it might be a good idea for tech companies to start getting involved and going through the posts on their platforms to ensure that the correct information is being spread,” she said.

NIMT held its first strategy workshop in 2023, which brought together the NIMT states and the national team over a four-day period to share lessons learned since the launch of the NCDC-hosted network, challenges faced and overcome, and the vision for the future.

For each of the NIMT pillars activity (strategic coordination, state support, infodemiology research, and advocacy), a new strategy will be created to respond to the changing nature of the health communications needs of stakeholders and to continue the network’s pioneering role in taking on complex issues with a collaborative approach.