Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
May 26, 2020

Global Health NOW experiences a surge in readers due to the pandemic

By YANNI GU | May 2, 2020

Global Health NOW (GHN) is a forum under the Bloomberg School of Public Health that distributes global health-related news and information. Established in January 2014, GHN has obtained a solid audience base for their e-newsletters and online articles.

In an interview with The News-Letter, Nick Moran, the social media and digital marketing manager of GHN, described the goal of the platform. 

“The vision is for GHN to be a place where everyone in public health can turn to in order to surface news and perspectives in the global health community that are important to the world at that moment,” Moran said. 

Ever since the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, GHN has observed a great change in their website visiting numbers, their audience base and the public’s general responses. Correspondingly, they have adjusted their content to better suit the needs of their readers and the current situation.

GHN Editor-in-Chief Brian Simpson explained the shift in an interview with The News-Letter

“We realized COVID is the biggest public health story of our lives. We need to be there for our readers. They are desperate for knowledge and for reliable information,” Simpson said.

Global health news changes daily and the large volume of papers and articles is often buried under other news stories. By dedicating their platform to global health, GHN can cut through this noise and provide an all-encompassing view of global health through original content and 100-word summaries of new scientific literature. 

After the first mention of COVID-19, which broke out in China in early January, GHN increased their cover on the pandemic exponentially, transitioning their e-newsletter and many of their summaries to cover COVID-19 exclusively.

According to Annalies Winny, associate editor for GHN, the platform’s page views and subscriber count have both undergone significant growth and their readership has expanded.

“We’ve definitely noticed an uptick in general types of users because of the growing general interest in global health and the fixation on COVID,” Winny said.

According to Moran, GHN page views have grown from 200,000 to 1.5 million since March 1. GHN has also gained over 15,000 subscribers, most of whom are from the general public. 

While most of their readers prior to the pandemic were public health professionals, the site now receives more comments and questions from members of the public who are concerned about their lives being affected.

This has changed the way writers approach their summaries.

“[It] challenges us to have a broad sense of how we explain things and be very clear and get the basic questions answered in a way that anyone can understand,” Winny said.

While designing the layout of their daily summaries and articles, GHN tries to report interesting content for all of their audiences, ranging from raw numbers of infected patients to recaps of scientific literature.

One of the key goals for GHN is to evenly represent aspects of global health on all continents to report on under-covered stories. However, as the U.S. becomes the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, GHN has been compelled to change their location of focus. 

Dayna Myers, GHN managing editor, explained, “We’ve done much more U.S. coverage because we have more readers from the U.S. asking us questions, subscribing and expressing the interest and the need for accurate information from the U.S.”

With this in mind, GHN is still striving to present to its audience with a holistic view of the pandemic with sources from countries across the globe. Myers explained that this allows GHN to fill the gap between their readers, who are primarily in the U.S., and the rest of the world.

“We want to make sure that we’re keeping tabs on what’s going on in other places from different angles, even if we have a lot of stories that seem U.S.-centric,” Myers said. 

Despite the abundance of information found in GHN’s summaries and original commentaries, the desire for accurate COVID-19 information continues to increase. To respond to the demand, GHN launched “Expert Reality Check,” a list of facts attached at the end of the daily e-newsletter.

“We talk with experts from all over the world about a key facet of the pandemic to give people reliable information on issues that they either care about deeply or want to know about more,” Simpson said.

The list grows as time goes on and more questions are submitted and has currently been viewed over 250,000 times. 

With COVID-19 spreading around the globe and bringing distressing news with it, GHN has begun to provide “daily diversions” that aim to lift the audience’s spirit and divert them away from distressing news. 

The GHN team has been working relentlessly to tailor their content and provide their new audience with the latest and most comprehensive global health news. 

Though this time has been full of difficulties and significant changes, the growth in their audience indicates the increasing breadth of their network’s reach.

According to Simpson, although the process has been challenging, it has also presented GHN with an opportunity. 

“We could see this as one of our greatest challenges and also one of our greatest opportunities to provide a service to our readers and to a growing readership,” Simpson said.

Errata: The article originally stated that Annalies Winny is a writer for GHN. She is associate editor.

The News-Letter regrets this error.

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