March 5, 2020
Dr. Jeanna Parsons Leigh leads Canadian efforts to understand the social and cultural factors contributing to public knowledge of COVID-19
As COVID-19 spreads globally, the World Health Organization, national governments, and health networks are working to keep the public informed with accurate and up-to-date information. However, the sharing of false information continues to have a negative impact on how people and communities are responding to the outbreak. Widespread fear, discrimination, and misuse of health services are just some examples of how misinformation has negatively impacted communities. A better understanding of the social and cultural factors contributing to public knowledge and perceptions of COVID-19 are needed to support the development of evidence-informed strategies to combat misinformation, stigma and fear.
The ultimate goal of this research project is to educate, engage and empower members of the public to be informed stewards of their health during the current and future infectious disease outbreaks.
Dr. Jeanna Parsons Leigh is a Medical Sociologist at Dalhousie University with several years’ experience conducting applied health research. Upon seeing the public reaction to COVID-19, Dr. Parsons Leigh recognized the unique opportunity to conduct a research study that centers on understanding public perceptions and associated implications of COVID-19 to develop strategies to close identified knowledge gaps.
Dr. Parsons Leigh is working with members of the public, clinicians and researchers from across the country to combat misinformation, stigma and fear around COVID-19. This project will be co-led with researchers at the University of Calgary (Dr. Kirsten Fiest, Dr. Thomas Stelfox) and St. Michaels Hospital (Dr. Sharon Straus). To ensure that the research reflects the priorities of the public, members of the public are also co-leading this research program (Ms. Shelly Kupsch, Ms. Shelly Longmore and Ms. Nadine Foster).