GHS launches mobile app to counter misinformation about vaccines

The Ghana Health Service (GHS) has launched a mobile app – “Cranky Uncle Vaccine Game” to equip individuals with the skills to identify misinformation.

It will also enable them to understand vaccine safety, efficacy and importance while exposing misleading techniques of science denial.

Dubbed: “Leveraging technology to combat vaccine misinformation,” it will help address the proliferation of misinformation and disinformation regarding vaccines and its detrimental impact on public health.

The programme was organised by the GHS in collaboration with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Mobile app 

The app was developed by UNICEF, in partnership with the Sabin Vaccine Institute, Irimi and a Senior Research Fellow of the University of Melbourne, Dr John Cook.

The game is based on the science of inoculation theory and is an approach to building public resilience against misinformation. 

It combines evidence, humour, cartoons and critical thinking to introduce players to different disinformation techniques used in vaccine disinformation globally.

The game is based on key two characters – a cranky uncle and a health worker.

Cranky uncle uses tricks such as “conspiracy theory” and “fake scientist” to mislead people against vaccination. 

The health worker is the “trusted messenger “who counters these tricks by using scientific and verifiable facts which support vaccination and also reinforce the importance of vaccination. 

Throughout the game, players are mentored by the cranky uncle character, who teaches them different misinformation techniques (“tricks”).

The game is available on Play and lOS stores.

The Director-General of the GHS, Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, in a speech read on his behalf, said 

“In recent years, we have witnessed the alarming spread of misinformation surrounding vaccines, threatening not only individual health but also the fabric of our society”.

He said the digital technology provided a platform to engage and educate the public on the importance of vaccines and the dangers of misinformation. 

The D-G encouraged widespread use of the app before upcoming vaccination days and campaigns.

The acting Director of Health Promotion Division of the GHS, Mabel Kissiwah Asafo, also called on all to collaborate with her outfit to combat misinformation and promote vaccine uptake. 

The Head of Social and Behaviour Change Unit (SBC) of UNICEF Ghana, Sonya Sagan, also described the app as one of many innovative tools that UNICEF was using globally to help combat misinformation and disinformation and promote the uptake of immunisation. 

She added that the unit had also supported the GHS in setting up a national misinformation task force to address misinformation, developed a national strategy for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and utilised Talkwalker, a social listening tool that relies on artificial intelligence for monitoring online feedback. 

She said they had explored other channels through which people could access the cranky uncle, including a voice-based app known as Agoo, which is available in six local languages; a WhatsApp chatbot, U-Report; the Internet of Good Things, as well as a paper-based flipbook and flashcards. 

Source: GraphicOnline

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