Friday, April 3, 2020

Coronavirus, Fear, and Information Therapy

Fear is a natural human response. It helps keep us safe. We characterize this type of fear as “healthy” or “respectful.” On the other hand, irrational and chronic fear can disable us, both mentally and physically. This type of fear is also a foundation for human strife. During this pandemic, we must do all we can to mitigate irrational and chronic fear.

The root of this type of fear is the unknown. The cure for the unknown is something called “information therapy.” It is defined as providing people with the right information, at the right time, in the right way, so they can make informed decisions. Research has shown that information therapy alleviates the ill effects of inadequate health literacy, one of the strongest predictors of a person’s health status, life expectancy, and incurred healthcare costs. But to fully understand how the term mitigates fear involves examining its psychological components.

The word “information” is described as the facts we need to acquire knowledge. In turn, knowledge empowers us, and motivates us to take action. Receiving the wrong information, at the wrong time, in the wrong way, however, can cause irreparable harm. As such, the word “therapy” is the essential qualifier. It signifies a type of information that is soothing and healing, i.e., therapeutic. Therefore, the term “information therapy” implies empowerment, motivation, healing—a cure for the unknown.

While I did not invent the term, my colleagues and I have been the chief purveyors of “reward-induced information therapy” for over a decade. Throughout our experience, we have witnessed how reward-induced information therapy improves people’s health, lowers costs, and saves lives. But don’t take my word for it. Please read the independently validated study in the peer-reviewed Journal of Medical Internet Research, entitled “REDUCED HOSPITALIZATIONS, EMERGENCY ROOM VISITS, AND COSTS ASSOCIATED WITH A WEB-BASED HEALTH LITERACY, ALIGNED-INCENTIVE INTERVENTION: MIXED METHODS STUDY.” You will find that this study includes a few of the thousands upon thousands of testimonials from patients and doctors about information therapy.
My concluding bit of advice is that now, more than ever, information therapy is needed to overcome the unknown that drives unhealthy fear associated with the coronavirus pandemic.

What say you?

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