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Med students create video series to dispel COVID myths
As health care systems across the country work rapidly to distribute COVID-19 vaccines as efficiently as possible, there is a lot of misinformation being shared on social media and online. Some of this information may be creating fears over the vaccines and influencing the decision whether to get vaccinated or not.
Misinformation and rumour can spread more quickly than the virus itself and it can be just as dangerous. However, it has been found that early interventions can help prevent people from spreading misinformation.
That is exactly what Dalhousie Medical School and Nova Scotia Health are trying to do through a series of videos on social media.
In December 2020, the increase of COVID-19 activity was occurring largely in people aged 18-35, sparking a discussion between the Department of Health and Wellness and Dalhousie Medical School suggesting that this group might benefit from learning more about the risks of COVID-19 from people their own age.
Look Who’s Talking
The Dalhousie student population is largely made up of this demographic, making them a natural fit to host the videos. In collaboration with Communications Nova Scotia – the same team responsible for creating the Premier’s and Dr. Strang’s televised press conferences – the first five videos were scripted and produced in under a week.
"This project has given me the opportunity to further develop my leadership skills and proficiency as a future physician and has allowed me to directly give back to my community,” says Brett Ells, second-year medical student and host of two videos. “I believe these videos will continue to be beneficial for both the Nova Scotians and the Dalhousie community.”
Brett Ells, second-year medical student
The student hosts provide viewers with guidance on healthy behaviors and social norms related to COVID-19. By strategically initiating a dialogue with their peers about the importance of mask-wearing, physical distancing, and proper cough/hand hygiene, hosts ensure that many of the questions and expectations surrounding health and safety guidelines among young Nova Scotians are addressed.
Our Best Defense
The best defense against misinformation is teaching critical thinking skills. The scripts are written to further educate Nova Scotians about the many complex factors concerning the pandemic and to help stop the spread of misinformation. They are authored by and vetted through three offices: Communications Nova Scotia, the Department of Health and Wellness, and Dalhousie Medical School. In effort to discredit any mistruths, the videos introduce scientific literacy; teaching people how the scientific process works and how to evaluate claims using scientific evidence – but without a degree in public health and epidemiology. Instead, the scripts use plain language to break down the science and simplify the terminology in order to keep communities aware, informed, and COVID-free.
Topics are chosen based on public interest concerning current events. For example, when the vaccine shipments arrived in Canada, the conversations evolved from how to get a COVID-19 test and rapid testing to what vaccines are being used in Nova Scotia and what are the vaccines made of.
“It is crucial for future physicians to effectively communicate scientific knowledge in a simple and accessible manner,” says second-year medical student Nardeen Grace, host of one of the Mythbuster videos that focused on MRNA vaccines. “I am honored to be part of a project that does precisely that, and I believe these videos will continue to benefit both the Nova Scotians and the Dalhousie community.”
Nardeen Grace, second-year medical student
The first series of videos, titled COVID-19 Explained, covered the basics of the coronavirus. Topics such as, “How can I tell if I’ve been exposed to the virus?” and “What is contact tracing and how does it work?” were answered by students ranging from first-to-fourth year from the faculties of Medicine and Health. In the new year, the videos evolved from their longer, infomercial-feel into shorter segments known as Mythbusters, and featured students debunking popular myths concerning the science behind the virus and its vaccines.
In the Maritimes, Dalhousie’s COVID-19 communication is reaching multiple audiences, each one with different questions, needs, and priorities. It is important that the medical school use the clearest language possible to help people make the right decisions for their health. These videos are a step towards setting the record straight on some of the myths about the COVID-19 pandemic and promoting facts and science to help get Nova Scotians get the information they need to stay safe.
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