USIU-Africa takes part in the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) conference

By Kevin C. Mudavadi

SIMElab’s David Lomoywara, Alumni Relations’ Kevin Mudavadi and Prof. Melissa Tully from the University of Iowa presented a paper titled Health Misinformation in Kenya at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) virtual conference held last week.

The study investigates Kenyans’ exposure and response to health misinformation that circulates on social media and chat apps (WhatsApp) to provide much-needed and nuanced data from the Global South. Specifically, it sought to find out Kenyans’ experiences with health misinformation in their everyday lives, the consequences of engaging with this content, and strategies for navigating information ecosystems.

Research suggests that Kenyans believe they encounter misinformation on social media regularly and sometimes share it with others in their networks (Chakrabarti, Rooney, & Kweon, 2018; Wasserman & Madrid-Morales, 2019). Although some attention has been paid to political misinformation in Kenya, less research has looked at other forms of misinformation that circulate online in daily lives despite the longstanding scholarship on rumors as part of African media culture (Goldstein & Rotich, 2008; Mare, 2016, 2020; Tully, 2013; Wasserman, 2017). This study looked to fill this existent gap.

Findings drawn from this study, that was conducted in early this year (January to February) among 24 Kenyan adults aged between 19 to 36 years old using in-depth interviews indicate that most participants have seen health misinformation circulating on social media, chat apps, and in mainstream media. 17 of 24 in-depth interview participants described false, misleading or confusing information regarding cancer. Participants also discussed vaccine misinformation around the HPV and Polio vaccine as being linked to numerous false information. For example, one refusing to vaccinate a child because of religious influence.

This study accentuates the role of misinformation on health decisions. Participants mentioned people making decisions based on incorrect information and how that could be harmful to their health with key insights on possible effects of misinformation about vaccines (e.g., not getting children vaccinated against Polio because of religion influence). More so, participants indicated that health misinformation can make people believe they are sick when they haven’t visited a doctor or been tested for a disease.

Although many people say they verify information, when shown a post that looked credible, many relied on cues (e.g. source) or existing beliefs instead of verification techniques. The findings of this study emphasize the need to expand research into health misinformation especially in more Global South contexts. For more information about the conference, visit:

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