Purdue Libraries and School of Information Studies News

Combining Evidence Synthesis, Infodemic Management, and Participatory Design Practices to Understand How Health (Mis)Information Spreads in African American Communities

November 1st, 2021

Professor Bethany McGowan

In July 2021, Libraries Professor Bethany McGowan was awarded an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) planning grant to conduct research that seeks to understand how health information, including misinformation and disinformation, originates and spreads in African American communities. The planning grant will lay the foundation for a larger project grant proposal that will focus on developing an OER course or series of courses that teach library workers and information professionals to develop health literacy interventions that are culturally sensitive, inclusive, and equitable. Throughout the grant’s two-year timeframe, Professor McGowan will work with researchers from Howard University and Carnegie Mellon University to conduct a systematic review, carefully analyzing and synthesizing evidence from published literature. Her team will also execute a participatory design study to actively involve and listen to project stakeholders. The results of the systematic review, combined with those of the participatory design study, will inform the later design of the OER course(s).

This IMLS award follows McGowan’s acceptance into and completion of the highly competitive World Health Organization Infodemic Management Training in November 2020. Infodemic management is the systematic use of evidence-based analysis and interventions to manage mis/disinformation campaigns, mitigating the harmful effects of health misinformation on health behaviors during acute health events. During the training, McGowan upskilled her ability to respond to and deploy interventions that protect and mitigate misinformation and its harmful effects, evaluate the design and effectiveness of health communication interventions, and design health literacy interventions and health communications campaigns that strengthen the resilience of individuals and communities to misinformation and disinformation. Elements from the training are carefully threaded throughout her project’s action plan.

Though this IMLS-funded planning grant marks Professor McGowan’s first time leading a systematic review, systematic analysis and evidence-based practice have long been integral to her research, instruction, and outreach. In 2016 she helped launch the Libraries’ systematic review service and in 2019 she co-developed and co-taught a graduate-level course on systematic review methodology, an experience documented in a recent JMLA case report. She has co-authored several systematic reviews and meta-analyses alongside health sciences researchers and has co-taught an evidence-based practice Nursing course. And, she has worked with the non-profit Evidence Aid, helping to collate and summarize evidence that emergency responders and decision-makers use to prepare for and respond to disasters and emergencies