The use of anthropology, ethnography and cognitive sciences for understanding the influence of online communities on public health: measles outbreak and anti-vaccination movement - lesson not learned
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Institute of Public Health of Serbia "Dr Milan Jovanovic Batut", Belgrade, Serbia
Institute of Public Health of Serbia Dr Milan Jovanovic Batut, Belgrade, Serbia
Publication date: 2023-04-27
Popul. Med. 2023;5(Supplement):A1842
Background and Objective: The past several years have been pivotal in revealing how much of an impact social groups on the internet have on the public health in general. Understanding that such groups comprise of relatively stable sets of links that have specific structure and include resource exchange depends on using the methods of medical anthropology, cyber ethnography, and cognitive sciences for recognition and full analysis of the virtual communities. The application of the methodologies is demonstrated by an analysis of the anti-vaccination movements actions in relation to the measles outbreak and the effects of those actions on the general public health. Methods: Qualitative research is conducted using the observation of 12 social groups on the internet chosen by the criteria of existing anti-vaccine narrative, analysis of people interactions within and between those groups, 5 structured interviews in vivo, Roy DAndrades folk model of the mind, and systematical analysis of the topic-related literature from PubMed and Google Scholar. Results: Processing the example of social groups it was confirmed that the lack of trust in conventional medicine directly correlates to the belief in conspiracy theories, miraculous properties of alternative medicine, and even magic. The study has determined the cognitive schemes and culture models explaining the principles and providing the information on the cultural thought that lies behind the Interpretation of public health on the internet. Conclusions: The multidisciplinary approach made it possible not just to recognize the existence of the influence of virtual communities on public health, but to determine its source, analyze its development, discover prospective branching, and predict its outcomes, directly affecting the planning of future public health interventions, in order to avoid further repetition of the same mistakes like the difficulties during coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccination process.
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