The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly shown that more intensive efforts are needed to protect the European Union Member States and their societies. In addition to the severe consequences of the pandemic, we have suffered from an “infodemia” defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “the existence of too much information about a problem, which makes it difficult to find a solution.”
Infodemia can hamper effective public health responses and create confusion and mistrust among people, the WHO warns. Due to the abundant information (not always true or accurate) about the virus, its origin and its consequences, as well as the actions of the authorities to combat the pandemic, it is difficult for people to find the necessary reliable sources and guidance.
Since the beginning of 2020, the WHO has been collecting and providing information on some of the most widespread myths about the coronavirus pandemic, and the EU has encouraged online platforms to contribute to the fight against fake news and other misinformation by removing illegal or false content. No less important condition for the successful overcoming of both crises, however, is the personal commitment and responsibility of each citizen.
In carrying out this important task, the support of a faithful and competent friend gives an invaluable advantage and confidence. HealthBuddy + is a multilingual interactive chatbot developed by WHO / Europe and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for Europe and Central Asia (ECARO), which aims to help countries in the region access accurate and relevant information and counter misinformation around the virus.
HealthBuddy + not only provides verified information that debunks false claims and misinformation, but also supports a reporting feature. Registered users of the application have the opportunity to participate in the fight against the dissemination of false information * and disinformation**
“COVID-19 has unleashed an infodemic, making it challenging for people to navigate the overload of information and misinformation available. The WHO and UNICEF regional offices have joined forces to develop this innovative tool for countries that delivers accurate, timely and tailored messages about COVID-19, based on evidence we are gathering every day,” said Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe.
HealthBuddy + has versions for different platforms (web, iOS, Android) in nearly 20 languages and is completely free. The application allows interaction (communication through Q&A) with the chatbot and participation in surveys.
* False information is erroneous information created or disseminated unintentionally.
** Disinformation is also false information, but deliberately created to cause harm.