Exploring online search behavior for COVID-19 preventive measures: The Philippine case

Adrian Galido, Jerina Jean Ecleo, Atina Husnayain, Emily Chia-Yu Su

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Public health agencies have suggested nonpharmaceutical interventions to curb the spread of the COVID-19 infections. The study intended to explore the information-seeking behavior and information needs on preventive measures for COVID-19 in the Philippine context. The search interests and related queries for COVID-19 terms and each of the preventive measures for the period from December 31, 2019 to April 6, 2020 were generated from Google Trends. The search terms employed for COVID-19 were coronavirus, ncov, covid-19, covid19 and "covid 19." The search terms of the preventive measures considered for this study included "community quarantine", "cough etiquette", "face mask" or facemask, "hand sanitizer", handwashing or "hand washing" and "social distancing." Spearman's correlation was employed between the new daily COVID-19 cases, COVID-19 terms and the different preventive measures. The relative search volume for the coronavirus disease showed an increase up to the pronouncement of the country's first case of COVID-19. An uptrend was also evident after the country's first local transmission was confirmed. A strong positive correlation (rs = .788, p < .001) was observed between the new daily cases and search interests for COVID-19. The search interests for the different measures and the new daily cases were also positively correlated. Similarly, the search interests for the different measures and the COVID-19 terms were all positively correlated. The search interests for "face mask" or facemask, "hand sanitizer" and handwashing or "hand washing" were more correlated with the search interest for COVID-19 than with the number of new daily COVID-19 cases. The search interests for "cough etiquette", "social distancing" and "community quarantine" were more correlated with the number of new daily COVID-19 cases than with the search interest for COVID-19. The public sought for additional details such as type, directions for proper use, and where to purchase as well as do-it-yourself alternatives for personal protective items. Personal protective or community measures were expected to be accompanied with definitions and guidelines as well as be available in translated versions. Google Trends could be a viable option to monitor and address the information needs of the public during a disease outbreak. Capturing and analyzing the search interests of the public could support the design and timely delivery of appropriate information essential to drive preventive measures during a disease outbreak.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e0249810
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume16
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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