As harmful to public health as COVID-19, false information disseminated via social media and other digital platforms has become widespread. Misinformation hurts health and kills people. To debunk false COVID-19 claims and provide factual information across Europe, WHO/Europe and UNICEF ECARO launched HealthBuddy+ online in May 2020 as a joint effort.

Developed into an app (launched in October 2020) and available in 20 languages, the tool has been reworked. The digital instrument is now available to Bulgaria and North Macedonia.

A tool for responding

As Health Minister Venko Filipche stated at the North Macedonia launch: “We expect this practical tool, offering access to accurate and verified information, will not only help users stay up to date on COVID-19 but also improve our personal and collective preparedness to counter disinformation and myths surrounding the virus and COVID-19 vaccines.”

WHO Representative Jihane Tawilah added, “Misleading content on websites and social media platforms is a huge concern.” Surveys show that people desire more specifics and transparency. HealthBuddy+ provides easy access to trustworthy COVID-19 information in local settings and languages. The COVID-19 expert is HealthBuddy+.

WHO-UNICEF partnership

WHO Country Office Dr. Michail Okoliyski addressed at the Bulgarian launching of the WHO Country Office website. In terms of evidence-based message-sharing, it’s an excellent choice. We’re giving a good weapon for fighting the epidemic that matches Bulgarians’ needs and supports their emotional and mental well-being, he said.

“HealthBuddy+ is a digital compass in the unending infodemic,” says UNICEF Bulgaria’s Communication for Social Change Officer and HealthBuddy+ implementer, Ivaylo Spasov. “It’s made partnerships possible.” While it can be used as a short-term crisis response tool, it will have an even bigger impact as a long-term partner and a hub for health literacy and mental health after COVID-19

An international chatbot network will be set up shortly to help with the COVID-19 and infodemic response.

Google Play and the App Store have the HealthBuddy+ app.

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