Digital health communication in South Africa during COVID-19
AbstractOn 11 March 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared a global pandemic as the world experienced the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) to 144 countries (World Health Organisation, 2020a). The disease resulting from the virus – coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) – had already overloaded the health systems of many nations. In South Africa, which confirmed its first positive COVID-19 case on 5 March, the pandemic has resulted in extreme measures to prevent its spread, including a national lockdown and various restrictions on movement. It has also resulted in one of the most widespread health communication campaigns since the HIV epidemic during the 2000s. Terms such as “social distancing” and “flattening the curve” have become part of our communal vocabulary due to the extent of health messaging. The communication on practical preventative solutions, such as hand- washing and alternative greeting practices (Prem et al., 2020), has also been shared widely in an easy-to- understand manner. The WHO specifically emphasises the accurate and timely communication of essential health information as imperative to curbing the spread of the virus, and how important such communication is to shifting behaviours and perceptions (WHO, 2020b). In addition, accurate and authoritative information, which inspires trust, is important in combatting the spread of the virus. This has meant innovation in digital health communication.
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