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The New Normal will bring together voices from academic, social services, healthcare, policy and individuals with lived experiences to enable a holistic examination of the following areas of focus:

Intertwined IconLife Cycle of Misinformation (consumers vs contributors)

This conference will explore the ways in which misinformation continues to feed itself forward through its contributors and consumers. Contributors of misinformation come from a variety of backgrounds including politics, the media, and research publications. Being able to understand the grassroots agendas within each of these institutions is key to developing an eye for misinformation. The conference strives to highlight ways in which consumers can better filter through information and break the misinformation life cycle by being more critical of the available information.

Innovative Perspectives IconCommunity Solidarity (privilege and access- building trust)

This conference will explore ways in which allyship and community solidarity can help to bring forth trust amongst underrepresented communities who have long been pushed to the margins by systematic leaders. We will discuss strategies in which political and health leaders can improve the communication and dissemination of public health information in a more sensitive and co-participatory fashion. Moreover, the conference will provide its attendees with insight on acknowledging implicit privileges and leveraging this domain to become allies and help in rebuilding trust.

The Politics of Misinformation (role of the government – policies, regulations)

We will examine the role of the government at helping to manage the misinformation crisis throughout the pandemic. By doing this we will discuss policies, regulations and political agendas which could influence the way in which the public understands the dissemination of public health information and misinformation. Consequently, we hope to better equip future public health workers with the skills of how to approach future information crises.

Data IconSocial Media and the Internet

Having social media and the internet at our fingertips, we can share anything with anyone, anywhere. Through the conference, we will examine methods in which the internet and various social media platforms have played a crucial role in the circulation of COVID-19 misinformation. There will be discussion on how a global health emergency can lead to an “infodemic” and an overabundance of information for the public to navigate. This conference will give attendees a look into how many Canadian researchers, science communicators and health providers took the initiative and worked tirelessly to stop the spread of COVID-19 misinformation.

Data Management and Validation

We will explore how data is collected, analyzed, and managed in the context of a global pandemic. Despite the endless possibilities of using robust health data to drive improvements to care, COVID-19 has proven that there is still a great deal of room for improvement. Issues surrounding current data management and validation strategies will be discussed, with real world examples provided on how healthcare professionals attempted to improve data management strategies in light of the pandemic. Emphasis on data quality and data sharing will be explored to understand some of the crucial pain points in data management during a public health crisis. Examples include:

  • Shortcomings in comprehensive data collection during the COVID-19 pandemic (ex. Initial lack of race-based data or data surrounding vulnerable populations such as those in LTC settings)
  • Fact-checking different data sources on COVID-19 health information, such as COVID-19 case reports, vaccine efficacy, etc.
  • Data-driven solutions that supported public health initiatives during COVID-19

Health Communication

We will explore the concept of health communication during the COVID-19 pandemic, from a local and national perspective. Through the conference, we seek to understand effective communication strategies that helped bolster mitigation strategies for COVID-19, improve public trust, and improved adherence to public health guidelines. In addition, we will investigate ineffective strategies and recommendations that different stakeholders in our healthcare system must take in order to ensure improved communication for future public health crises. Examples include:

  • The Ontario government and public health officials’ role in disseminating health information to the public, including updates of COVID-19 cases, vaccines, and more.
  • Health communication challenges faced during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • The health literacy of Ontarians and various factors to be considered when developing an effective communication strategy

Contact information:

For questions and feedback regarding the Dalla Lana School of Public Health’s Student-Led Conference, please contact: slc.dlsph@utoronto.ca