human engagement counters misinformation

A recent study conducted by Facebook suggests that when it comes to vaccine doubts and misinformation, “a small group appears to play a big role in pushing the skepticism”.

Some of the early findings are notable: Just 10 out of the 638 population segments contained 50 percent of all vaccine hesitancy content on the platform. And in the population segment with the most vaccine hesitancy, just 111 users contributed half of all vaccine hesitant content. —WaPo 2021-03-14

Small groups of people can have influence beyond their numbers. For example when a committed minority in society rises above 25% there can be a tipping point. However it only takes 10% if those people have an unshakeable belief in their cause. Meanwhile, inside an organization, there is usually a small group of people — 3% — who can influence up to 85% its members. Find out more at — 25-10-3.

Too often those in power try to counter misinformation with facts. This does not work. A November 2019 article in the British Medical Journal by Kathryn Perera et al showed how difficult it is to change peoples’ minds with regards to vaccinations. Facts don’t change peoples’ minds.

Lesson 2: don’t bring a fact to a narrative fight

Experts and health professionals can arm themselves with white papers, peer reviewed studies, and symposia; but if these are our only weapons, we will only ever get so far. In an era in which experts are increasingly distrusted, the “we know best” mindset is counterproductive.

Those wishing to encourage vaccination need to identify and amplify the stories that emerge from the real lives and lived experiences of people in their communities (to start, they need to listen for them). It is no coincidence that the most effective climate advocacy in the world right now comes from the improvisations and stories of a 16 year old girl rather than the strategic plans of a generations old institution. —BMJ: New Power versus Old

A program in Québec, Canada shows what works — first connecting as a fellow human. EMMIE (l’Entretien Motivationnel en Maternité pour l’Immunisation des Enfants), in English — Motivational Interviewing in Maternity Hospitals for Child Immunization.

It [EMMIE] uses a method of counselling called motivational interviewing, an empathic, non-confrontational communication style developed by psychologists to bring about behavioural change.

“We are here to understand them and to give them the answers they need to make a good decision about immunization, and to help them to build a stronger decisional process about immunization of the child,” said [Doctor] Gagneur … [In the case of one mother] Just 19 and living in rural Alberta at the time she had her first child, Coulis said she did a lot of reading, a lot of which she didn’t understand fully. “I felt confused and unable to parse the information about this study versus that study.” There were big claims by anti-vaccination literature, but Coulis didn’t see those acknowledged by the government materials or by public health nurses … “The message from public health was, ‘Just trust us, we’ve done the thinking for you,’” she said. —CBC 2020-12-19

There is a major disconnect between those who run our institutions and the realities of the 99%. Does the following story remind you of anyone in a leadership position? If so, then that is sad.

I was working with the head of nursing who was also responsible for performance and training for all nursing staff in a large hospital. I asked to do an on-site performance analysis over several days. As a visitor I had to be accompanied by a member of the hospital staff. This senior clinician took me around to all floors and let me interview a number of staff. What was surprising to me was learning that after two years on the job, it was the clinician’s first time on the wards they were responsible for — in the same hospital!

This pandemic has shown the abject failure in communications from many of our institutions and authorities around the world. First they have to get out of their ‘ivory towers’ and meet people where they are. Leadership by walking around — physically or virtually —is necessary in our connected world. If our experts are not helping society make better decisions about health care, then what are they doing?

Source: Damian Corbet quoting Janice Kaffer CEO of Hôtel Dieu Grace Healthcare, Windsor, ON

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