Podcast explores COVID-19 messaging’s effects on perceptions, anxieties and behaviors

A new episode of The Symbiotic Podcast offers an inside look at an effort to dig deep into the subjective experiences of health care workers and the public across the globe

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa — Though the COVID-19 pandemic impacts all people across all nations, individual perceptions and responses to the outbreak have been anything but uniform. Communication around the health crisis has varied wildly, resulting in an inconsistent, ever-evolving and dizzyingly complex situation.

Aiming to better understand the efficacy of public health messaging in a pandemic, a team of Penn State researchers led by Dr. Rob Lennon, associate professor from the College of Medicine, designed and deployed an unusually open-ended survey that has been translated into 23 languages and reached more than 73 countries.

The study, title “COVID-19 Health Messaging Efficacy and its Impact on Public Perception, Anxiety and Behavior,” was launched In April 2019 through the Huck Institutes’ Coronavirus Seed Fund. The data being collected includes a great amount of qualitative, as well as quantitative information.

“I was surprised at the depth of some of these questions,” said podcast host Cole Hons. “Just the process of taking the survey forced me to really reflect on the pandemic in a new way.”

On May 20, 2020, Huck institutes’ Symbiotic Podcast crew interviewed the research team along with a key partner from the healthcare industry about the global research effort. Joining Lennon for the conversation was Dr. Lauren Van Scoy, a critical care physician from Penn State’s Qualitative and Mixed Methods Core; Cletis Earle, chief information officer for Penn State Health, and Russ Branzell, C.E.O. and president of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME).

“This work is of urgent importance,” said Lennon, “because public misunderstanding can drive policy decisions that increase patient risk to infectious disease outbreaks.”

The episode is available in audio-only and video form on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or any other podcast app. Audio, video and transcripts can be accessed at The Symbiotic Podcast website.