How to make health and risk communication on social media more “social” during covid-19

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Social media have changed the way citizens participate in and express opinions about government policy. Social media serve organizations in achieving four main goals: interacting with citizens; fostering citizen participation; furthering open government; and analyzing/monitoring public opinion and activities. We contend that despite the importance of social media, international and local health organizations have been slow to adopt to them, primarily due to the discrepancy between intraorganizational discourse modes and the type of discourse suitable for dialogue with the public. In this perspective paper, we recommend strategies for such public dialogue based on understanding the challenges faced by organizations on the road to becoming more “social” in their social media presence and in their health and risk communication. Subsequently, we propose an integrative approach that combines three complementary paths: (1) putting the “social” back into health organizations’ culture by inserting more “social” content into the internal organizational discourse through consultation with experts from different fields, including those who diverge from the scientific consensus. (2) Using strategies to enable health organizations to respond to the public on social networks, based on health communications research and studies on emerging infectious disease (EID) communication. (3) Engaging the public on social media based on the participatory approach, which considers the public as a partner that understands science and can work with the organizations to develop an open and innovative pandemic realm by using crowdsourcing to solve complex global health problems. For each path, we define the current challenges, among which are (1) overcoming organizational groupthink and hidden profiles, (2) treating all unofficial information as misleading, and (3) insufficient public engagement in solving complex global problems. We then offer recommendations for dealing with each challenge.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3523-3540
Number of pages18
JournalRisk Management and Healthcare Policy
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Gesser-Edelsburg.


  • COVID-19
  • Emerging infectious disease communication
  • Health and risk communication
  • Infodemic
  • Misinformation
  • Social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health Policy


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