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Why this guide?

The information environment we navigate can be unhealthy. 

How we are exposed to information and digest and react to alerts on our phone screens – from feeds on social media to the websites we visit – the news media we consume and the conversations we take part in can shape our views on health. 

It can be difficult to figure out what health information is accurate or not, especially online.

If we have better ways of understanding how different information environments affect people and their health decisions, we can foster healthier information spaces and tailor health information and services to individual and community needs.

What does an unhealthy information environment feel like?

Navigating an unhealthy information environment may include questions and concerns going unaddressed, experiencing information overload, sorting through conflicting, outdated or inaccurate information, or information voids, where we look for accurate health information but can’t find it. 

This can have real-world consequences on individual and public health. Examples include people with cancer choosing alternative treatments over evidence-based ones, or parents refusing vaccines for their children because of long-debunked vaccine safety myths on social media.

How can the guide be used to understand community information needs?

The best way to understand people’s information environments is to ask them to share a story of their experiences.

This guide is designed to provide a simple, step-by-step approach  to collecting, analyzing and acting on community experiences navigating health information and making decisions based on what information is accessible and engaging. 

The guide can be used by public health professionals, students, community-based organizations or researchers who want to solve a local health challenge. 

The key innovation presented in this guide is that l community members are not just asked to share stories of their experiences,  they will also analyze these collective stories together with other community members, and identify common themes, challenges and solutions that can inform recommendations. 

The guide is designed to be customizable and provides an overview of this participatory approach that involves community members throughout the entire process. If you can tell a story, you can take part.

The guide can be applied to investigating any health topic, from mental health to cancer to diet to pregnancy, and for any community, from health workers to teenagers to people with disabilities to people with chronic illnesses. 


This guide was developed by Elisabeth Wilhelm as part of a fellowship project at the Information Futures Lab at the Brown University School of Public Health in 2022-23, based on an evaluation project of infodemic stories in collaboration with the Infodemic Management Team at the World Health Organization (WHO). Huy Tran and Tzion Jones of Brown University’s School of Public Health also made valuable contributions to the development of this guide.

Elisabeth Wilhelm

Elisabeth works at the intersection of public health, innovation, and behavior change, designing and testing…

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Huy Tran

Huy Tran recently completed his Master's in Public Health in Maternal & Child Health at…

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Tzion Jones

Tzion Jones recently received his bachelor’s degree in both Computer Science and International & Public…

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This guide would not have been possible without the longstanding partnership of Tim Nguyen, Tina Purnat, Sandra Machiri, and Sylvie Briand from the WHO Emergencies Team in Geneva. Additionally, we would like to thank all the storytellers who contributed to the original global WHO-led infodemic stories project in 2022 and participants in the story analysis focus groups in June 2023, all of whose experiences informed the development of this guide. We also thank Claire Wardle and Samantha Stanley from the Information Futures Lab for their leadership and support in this project, as well as editorial support from Lorraine Broertjes.

We would like to acknowledge the expert feedback from colleagues at Brown University, the WHO infodemic management community and partners who provided feedback on the draft guide:

  • Chrysafo Arvaniti, Médecins Sans Frontières 
  • Veronica E. Avalos Clerici, Department of Cardiac Thoracic Vascular Sciences and Public Health, University of Padua
  • Susana Barragan, European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)
  • Christine Chan, Research and Evaluation — Lead, CanCOVID, University of Toronto
  • Sara Gorman, Critica
  • Marzieh Kouhestani
  • Renata E. Mares,
  • Kate McDowell, School of Information Sciences, University of Illinois Urbana- Champaign
  • Benedetta Pelosi, PhD (c), GIANT 
  • Fran Penfold, Pea Comms
  • Anton Schneider
  • Silvia Sommariva, UNICEF
  • Amy Staley, New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medicine
  • Iris Thiele Isip-Tan, College of Medicine, University of the Philippines
  • Mary Thompson, PharmD
  • Dr. Paraclete Ugwu, Enugu State Primary Healthcare Development Agency
  • Isabel Valero Morales, National Institute of Public Health Mexico
  • Chris Voegeli, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • Becky White, Curtin University

This guide is released on a Creative Commons license, specifically Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0). 

You are free to:

  • Share — copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format.
  • Adapt — remix, transform, and build upon the material.

Under the following terms:

  • Attribution — You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate whether changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.
  • NonCommercial — You may not use the material for commercial purposes.


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