Within this series of news articles, EUREGHA takes the opportunity to highlight actions taken by our members to tackle the Covid-19 outbreak.

In Belgium, 75% of the citizens find their facts about healthcare online. It is important to understand that not all the data portrayed on the internet is based on scientific research and could potentially even comprise false information. This kind of misinformation can lead to fear, speculation and mental stress. Especially in light of the current threat posed by Covid-19, it is important that citizens can have continuous access to reliable information and sources.

To tackle this exact issue, the Flemish Community (BE) launched a dedicated webpage on Covid-19 on www.gezondheidenwetenschap.be. This website was created in collaboration with the Centrum for Evidence-Based Medicine (Cebam) to debunk myths in medical and health messages. Gezondheid en Wetenschap previously worked together with the University of Antwerp to counter anti-vaccine news.

The new dossier aims to inform citizens and health care professionals about scientific facts and developments related to Covid-19. On a daily basis, two to three messages are being analysed and circulated on social media. Jo Vandeurzen (the former minister of wellbeing and healthcare) is the ambassador of the website. She believes it is important people can find nuanced and accessible information originating from high-level sources. Before the new web page was published, the website received 40.000-50.000 visitors each day, comprising of 1,2 million visitors per month. Since the launch of the web page on Covid-19, the daily amount of visitors increased to 75.000 – 85.000. A quarter of those visitors come from the Netherlands.

As Covid-19 is an unknown virus, the process of collecting data is time-consuming and needs to happen carefully. It is seen that during uncertain times such as a health crisis, affected community are eagerly looking for information. It proves to be an effective decision of the Flemish Community to step in here and now and provide its citizens with a reliable platform to refer to. At this time, the website is only available in Flemish but an example of an article can be found below.

“Fake news about the corona-epidemic is spreading faster than the virus itself. It is important to debunk false information quickly and efficiently with evidence-based fact checks using clear language, because fake news has a major impact on health.”

Marleen Finoulst, M.D., editor in chief of www.gezondheidenwetenschap.be