Communication strategies and media discourses in the age of COVID-19: An urgent need for action

Mélissa Généreux, Marc D. David, Tracey O'Sullivan, Marie Ève Carignan, Gabriel Blouin-Genest, Olivier Champagne-Poirier, Éric Champagne, Nathalie Burlone, Zeeshan Qadar, Teodoro Herbosa, Kevin Hung, Gleisse Ribeiro-Alves, Horacio Arruda, Pascal Michel, Ron Law, Alain Poirier, Virginia Murray, Emily Chan, Mathieu Roy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Identified in December 2019 in China, the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) has been declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). Pandemics share features that increase fear. While some fear can stimulate preventive health behaviors, extreme fear can lead to adverse psychological and behavioral response. The media play a major role shaping these responses. When dealing with a PHEIC, the authorities' communication strategies are embedded in a multilevel governance and a highly hierarchal system, which adds another layer of complexity. Carrying out more 'real-world research' is crucial to generate evidence relating to the psychosocial and behavioral aspects involved during the COVID-19 pandemic and how it is shaped by authorities and media discourses. Interdisciplinary research and international collaborations could contribute to improve our understanding and management of risk information. Emerging from a socio-ecological perspective, future research must integrate multilevel analytical elements, to ensure triangulation of evidence and coconstructing robust recommendations. A mixed-method approach should be privileged to address these issues. At the micro-level, a population-based survey could be conducted in various jurisdictions to assess and compare psychosocial issues according to sociocultural groups. Then, a quantitative/ qualitative discourse analysis of the media could be performed. Finally, a network analysis could allow assessing how official information flows and circulates across levels of governance. The COVID- 19 represents an opportunity to evaluate the impacts of information/communication strategy and misinformation on various cultural and socioeconomic groups, providing important lessons that could be applied to future health emergencies and disasters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1178-1185
Number of pages8
JournalHealth Promotion International
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by a Canadian Institute of Health Research Operating Grant (OV7-170635).

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.


  • Behavioral response
  • COVID-19
  • Pandemic
  • Psychosocial impacts
  • Risk perception and communication


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