Stern J, Georgsson S, Carlsson T
BMC Public Health 21 (1) 1141 [2021-06-14; online 2021-06-14]
reducing the spread and impact epidemics and pandemics requires that members of the general population change their behaviors according to the recommendations, restrictions and laws provided by leading authorities. When a new epidemic or pandemic emerges, people are faced with the challenge of sorting through a great volume of varied information. Therefore, the dissemination of high-quality web-based information is essential during this time period. The overarching aim was to investigate the quality of web-based information about preventive measures and self care methods at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. in May 2020, consumer-oriented websites written in Swedish were identified via systematic searches in Google (n = 76). Websites were assessed with inductive content analysis, the JAMA benchmarks, the QUEST tool and the DISCERN instrument. seven categories and 33 subcategories were identified concerning preventive measures (md = 6.0 subcategories), with few specifying a method for washing hands (n = 4), when to sanitize the hands (n = 4), and a method for sanitizing the hands (n = 1). Eight categories and 30 subcategories were identified concerning self care methods (md = 3.0 subcategories), with few referring to the national number for telephone-based counseling (n = 20) and an online symptom assessment tool (n = 16). Overall, the median total quality scores were low (JAMA = 0/4, QUEST =13/28, DISCERN = 29/80). at the beginning of the pandemic, substantial quality deficits of websites about COVID-19 may have counteracted the public recommendations for preventive measures. This illustrates a critical need for standardized and systematic routines on how to achieve dissemination of high-quality web-based information when new epidemics and pandemics emerge.