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07 June 2021

HSRC and Wits HCRU to study South Africa media consumption habits and behaviours during COVID-19

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)
Press Release

Pretoria, Monday 7 June 2021 – To reduce the spread of fake news and misinformation, the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and Wits Health Communication Research Unit (HCRU) invite members of the public to participate in the INSIGHTS study on health information practices in South Africa during COVID-19. Similar studies are being conducted around the world.

Starting on Monday, 7 June 2021, the multidisciplinary collaborative online survey is aimed at exploring the dynamics of access to information and information-seeking behaviours of South Africans in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The survey seeks to achieve the following objectives:

•To establish how the South African public accesses and uses information on COVID-19;

•To determine their level of trust in the information that they get;

•To determine their level of satisfaction with the information obtained;

•To identify factors that account for their access, use, trust and understanding of the information;

•To find out their preference in terms of packaging and dissemination of information on COVID-19 and the novel coronavirus;

•To determine the potential influence of context-specific factors on information access and use in South Africa during a time of COVID-19.

According to the HSRC’s Dr Konosoang Sobane, the survey will be completed anonymously. 

 The study is premised on the context of the COVID-19 pandemic that has created global panic requiring multiple forms of response, as well as an ‘infodemic’ with, in many instances, false information being circulated amongst communities. 

“Since no treatment is guaranteed to fully prevent infection or severe disease, an important part of the COVID-19 response involves targeting behavioural change, motivated by clear and timely risk and crisis communication from relevant authorities and across the spectrum. Accessing and effectively using appropriate, correct and timely health information is essential for guiding health-care consumers in making important health-related decisions,” said Dr Sobane.

The public’s access to, and understanding of, information helps them to understand and reduce their potential risk through relevant behavioural change. Trust in this information is also key to successfully implementing public health responses to the pandemic. 

“An in-depth understanding of trends in how the public seek and share COVID-19 information in the South African context, will help us to develop contextualised and effective communication strategies with bigger potential for uptake and averting public resistance,” added Dr Sobane.

To participate in the study, please click on the link below:

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For more information about the study, please contact: Dr Konosoang Sobane email: Phone/whatsapp 0660732109

For media interviews, please contact Adziliwi Nematandani, 0827659191, email:

About INSIGHTS study

Since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been vigorous global research activity on the epidemiological issues surrounding the virus, and on sociological issues such as the impact of the  pandemic on different population groups. 

Alongside this activity, a global community of practice that researches health communication practices (INSIGHTS, led by Prof Gary Kreps in the USA) is carrying out various surveys that generate knowledge on the health communication practices of different populations. 

However, these surveys have mostly been conducted in the Global North in contexts that are socio-economically and spatially different from South Africa. Knowledge of the trends and behaviours in the South African context is limited. 

Our project is aimed at generating knowledge that will fill this gap and provide insight into how South Africans access and share information about COVID-19 and the novel coronavirus, as well as at identifying factors that determine these trends.

About Wits HCRU

The Health Communication Research Unit (HCRU) at the University of the Witwatersrand is a research group concerned with understanding the unique challenges of cultural and linguistic diversity in health and community care contexts. Over the past two decades, the HCRU has engaged with clinical and community sites and developed research-based recommendations and communication skills training programmes to improve the quality of care. The Unit is based in the School of Human and Community Development, under the leadership of Prof Jennifer Watermeyer.

About the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

The HSRC was established in 1968 as South Africa’s statutory research agency and has grown to become the largest dedicated research institute in the social sciences and humanities on the African continent, doing cutting-edge public research in areas that are crucial to development.

Our mandate is to inform the effective formulation and monitoring of government policy; to evaluate policy implementation; to stimulate public debate through the effective dissemination of research-based data and fact-based research results; to foster research collaboration; and to help build research capacity and infrastructure for the human sciences. 

The Council conducts large-scale, policy-relevant, social-scientific research for public sector users, non-governmental organisations and international development agencies. Research activities and structures are closely aligned with South Africa’s national development priorities.

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