Has public health messaging during the COVID-19 pandemic reflected local risks to health?: A content analysis of tweeting practices across Canadian geographies
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During the COVID-19 pandemic, public health agencies and decision-makers have used social media to disseminate information, encourage changes to behaviour and promote community supports and resources. Their communications have served to educate the public on risks and initiate the widespread adoption of public health measures to 'flatten the curve'. We conducted a content analysis of COVID-19 Tweets by Canadian public health accounts during the first 6 months of the pandemic to explore differences in Tweeting practices by geography and identify opportunities to improve risk communication. We found that Canadian public health accounts in particular geographic settings did not always apply best practices for health communication. Tweeting practices differed considerably between jurisdictions with varying burdens of COVID-19. Going forward, Tweets authored by public health accounts that promote behaviour change and community-building ought to be utilized whenever risks to health are high to reflect an increase in disease transmission requiring intervention. Our study highlights the need for public health communicators to deliver messaging that is relevant for the levels of risk that their audiences are encountering in a given geographic context.
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