“The role of communication strategies and media discourse in shaping the psychological and behavioural response to the COVID-19 outbreak: an international comparative analysis”
During the current COVID-19 pandemic, NCCID has been nimble and responsive, initiating and partnering on numerous COVID-19 related knowledge translation activities. Among them, NCCID is a partner with a team of Canadian and international researchers to develop knowledge exchange and translation strategies on the burning issue of psychosocial health to inform public health decision-makers at all levels and the scientific community.
A mixed-method approach has been adopted to study these complex issues. First, a population-based survey will be conducted in all participating countries that will examine various psychosocial issues (perceptions, understandings, psychological consequences, behaviours adopted), according to the different social groups including the high-risk ones. Then, a discourse analysis of the authorities, media, and socio-digital content will be performed. Finally, a network analysis (e.g. information disseminated by WHO, distribution lists, reception, and use of information, type of actors reached) will allow assessing how official information flows and circulates across levels of governance.
The Role of Communication Strategies and Media Discourse in Shaping the Psychological and Behavioral Response to the COVID-19 Outbreak: An International Comparative Analysis, is a research grant funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) initiated by a multidisciplinary team from the Université de Sherbrooke under Principal Investigator, Dr. Mélissa Généreux. Partners and collaborators are from Canada, the USA, Philippines, Hong Kong, Brazil, England, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Belgium. The aim of the grant is to investigate psychological and behavioural responses to the pandemic and the influence of communication strategies, news from traditional (mainstream media) and social media sources, and other stressors and protective factors in eight countries.
A working partnership has been established with the Université de Sherbrooke, University of Ottawa, The National Collaborating Centre for Infectious Diseases (University of Manitoba), National Director of Public Health in Quebec, Regional Director of Public Health in Estrie (Quebec), Public Health Agency of Canada, University of the Philippines, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Centro Universitário de Brasília, Public Health England, University of Neuchâtel, University of Geneva, Université catholique de Louvain. The international members of the team include researchers who work in strategic communication, epidemiology, information and journalism, medicine, politics, psychology, public health, and other fields. This project will provide a macro analysis of people’s perceptions and interpretations of public health messages (e.g., from the World Health Organization and governments) and other sources of information (such as mainstream media, social media, and other sources) as well as the psychosocial impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on individuals.
Pilot study outcome:
To ensure the validity and reliability of the survey instruments, a pilot survey was issued in Canada by the Université de Sherbrooke. A total of 600 people (300 in Quebec and 300 outside Quebec) participated in the survey between April 8 and 11, 2020.
Initial results show are shown in Table 1.
|Quebec||Rest of Canada|
|PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)||18.8%||27.5%|
|Generalized Anxiety Disorder||14.2%||28.8%|
|Adhere to voluntary or mandatory Isolation||88.6%||72.8%|
|Confidence in authorities to handle the pandemic||49.6%||26.8%|
|Feel respondents have the information they need to fully understand the coronavirus||83.7%||60.8%|
This survey indicates that respondents from Quebec felt more confident about the handling of the pandemic by the provincial authorities than other Canadians. Quebecers also felt they had the right information to understand the pandemic, and hence were less likely to experience psychosocial stressors such as post-traumatic stress disorder and generalized anxiety disorder when compared with the rest of Canada.
Coming up soon:
In the coming weeks and months, international surveys will be conducted in two phases (phase 1: May – June 2020 & phase 2: between summer or fall 2020) across Canada and in the eight collaborating countries concurrently. With a sample of a few thousand people, results from this study will allow the research team to compare data across different regions and monitor changes in the psychological and behavioural response to the pandemic as well as the influence of government communication strategies and different information presented in traditional media and on social media. These results will be shared here when available.