Public Health Communication in France during the Spanish Flu and the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Role of Experts
In times of crisis, a government’s communication with the public is fundamental, as one of the government’s main tasks is to provide critical information to protect the population. In the current context of the COVID-19 pandemic, public health communication has been paramount because of the elevated risk of contagion. Moreover, in public health communication, experts play a pivotal role by providing reliable information on the basis of their technical expertise. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is often compared to that of the Spanish flu, a pandemic occurring in 1918-1919, whose global spread decimated tens of millions of people. This contribution aims to assess the role of experts in the two crises by highlighting the differences in France’s public health communication during the two events. Assuming that the objectives of public health communication during the two pandemics were more or less identical, i.e. to prevent the spread of disease and inform and protect the public, the paper inquires about the means used to achieve them, focusing on the contribution of experts. The main characteristics of public health communication during the Spanish flu will be investigated by analysing articles published in the period between 1918 and 1919 in two French newspapers Le Matin and Le Petit Parisien. In terms of the current COVID-19 pandemic, this paper will probe articles published since December 2019 in the newspaper Le Monde.
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CC Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY4.0)