Making Online Health News Reliable and Accessible—Global Issues


Prayer flags during the COVID-19 pandemic. Empowerment platform Fuzia is concerned with the mental health of their audience. Credit: Ankita Gupta Pramanik
  • by Fairuz Ahmed (New York)
  • Inter Press Service

The Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2021 found that many consumers have quickly adopted new digital behaviors during lockdowns. This has created new digital opportunities and revealed the next set of challenges. In all countries, almost 73% of the population now has access to news via a smartphone, up from 69% in 2020. During the pandemic, governments around the world have turned to these personal devices to communicate. Consumers are now increasingly relying on personal devices to read government restrictions, report symptoms, schedule vaccines and access news.

Research in 12 countries shows that 66 percent of users use one or more social networks or messaging apps to view, share or discuss news. Facebook, TikTok, Telegram, Instagram and WhatsApp are among the leading social media platforms for user engagement and news sharing.

Nina Jain, who lives in Connecticut, US, says she has made extensive use of online health information since the start of the pandemic.

“I looked frantically from one portal to another trying to understand what is going on with the pandemic. As a mother of five and caring for elderly in-laws, it was imperative to navigate properly and stay prepared. Health centers were closed in our areas and it was very difficult to get appointments at the doctors’ offices,” Jain said in an interview with IPS.

“Telephone helplines, on-call nurses and government sites were my favorite portals for credible online health news and services. It took me and my family a lot of persuasion to get my parents, who live in India, to use online portals to make appointments and receive treatment. As a caregiver, this was a breakthrough and a much-needed adjustment.”

An article published in Fierce Healthcare says that demand for telemedicine is expected to grow at an annual rate of about 38% over the next five years. Globally, innovative telemedicine companies and social media platforms are stepping up to meet this trend, expanding the reach of telemedicine and improving what it can do.

During the pandemic, the women’s empowerment platform, Fuzia, has been concerned about ensuring that its readers receive credible and up-to-date information.

Fuzia co-founder Riya Sinha says this aligns with the website’s ethos of empowerment, diversity, inclusion and supports good health and well-being in line with sustainable development goals.

“Through our community, we started hosting events and webinars and tried to become a knowledge and experience sharing platform where real users voice their concerns about menstruation, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), mental health depression, stress, teenage problems, and general health factors,” Sinha says.

Fuzia’s co-founder Shraddha Varma agrees: “We don’t want women to be just care givers, but we also want them to be care recipients. To really take some time off and just listen to what the body is telling us, so as not to constantly feel like they deserve to suppress their voice.”

The site has more than 5 million followers. They have an active user base on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn and use their extensive global presence to create a safe and creative space for users.

Dedeepya Tatineni, a user of the platform, found herself suffering from mental health issues during the pandemic. She took advantage of the forum and its guides.

“Fuzia’s supervisors are very helpful. I don’t feel depressed now and feel a lot better. Expressing myself about Fuzia makes me feel more confident and happier,” Tatineni said.

Research has found that the pandemic was spreading around the world and sparking widespread fear – the disruptions during lockdowns and its effects on livelihoods compounded the impact.

An article in Nature indicates that early results of mental health studies suggest that during the pandemic, “young people rather than older youth are most vulnerable to more mental health problems, perhaps because their need for social interactions is greater. Data also suggests that young women are more vulnerable than young men, and those with young children, or a previously diagnosed psychiatric disorder, are at particularly high risk for mental health problems.”

For many women around the world, wellness in general is seen as a luxury. Men are often given priority in healthcare. Topics such as menstruation, pregnancies, feminine hygiene, the mental, physical, sexual and emotional well-being of teens and teens, postpartum depression are overlooked or not discussed because they are taboo.

Women and girls are also affected by ‘period poverty’, where lack of access to sanitary products, education about menstrual hygiene, toilets, hand washing facilities and waste management students miss classes and stay indoors.

Menstrual health is not just a women’s issue. Worldwide, 2.3 billion people live without sanitation, and in developing countries only 27% of people have adequate hand washing facilities at home, according to UNICEF. Not using these facilities makes it more difficult for women and young girls to manage their periods safely and with dignity.

Varma and Sinha are determined that Fuzia will remain committed to providing a judgment-free zone and be prepared for difficult discussions on taboo topics.

This article is a sponsored feature.

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© Inter Press Service (2021) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service



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