How Loud and Clear Rung the Alarm Bell: The Communication Efforts of WHO on the Beginning of COVID-19 Outbreak
s seen clearly from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, health is an important foreign policy and diplomatic issue connected with security, economic well-being, and international development. According to risk communication researchers, effective, transparent, and timely information sharing is the most important tool after vaccines for responding to pandemics. This study aims to start a scholarly discussion on the risk communication efforts of the World Health Organization (WHO) during the COVID-19 outbreak. We analyzed WHO’s communication efforts during the first 3 months of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the leading international health organization, WHO was responsible for providing rapid, up-to-date, and credible information for the public and the media. The selected research items were 42 news releases and statements provided by WHO between December 31, 2019, and March 30, 2020. These were subjected to qualitative and quantitative content analyses using the NVivo 12 qualitative analysis software program for coding. The data were coded under 6 variables (date of publication, topics, frequency, wording of the COVID-19 outbreak, sourcing, and themes of the releases). While 54.7% of WHO's communications were devoted to the COVID-19 outbreak, more than half were not issued until March. That is, instead of early risk communication and clear warnings about the outbreak, WHO acted overcautiously, preferring messages related to solidarity and cooperation during the most devastating pandemic of the 21st century.
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