About the COVID-19 Influencers Social Media Awards

Since WHO first declared COVID-19 a public health emergency in 2020, how we think and communicate about the pandemic has continually shifted.

As patients, family members, carers, health care professionals of all stripes, scientists, corporate managers, charities and community organizations, journalists and scores of essential workers, we turned to social media to share real-time experiences, to stay up-to-date, to understand the pandemic, and to discover what was happening around the world.

Social media allowed us to make sense of the pandemic.

Concealed within this shift was a reliance on an emerging cadre of new ‘COVID-19 influencers’: individuals who helped drive such social media exchanges by identifying, interpreting and sharing new observations and key data points, analysing and commenting on emerging information, and helping fuel the debate on emerging pandemic policies and clinical practice.

The COVID-19 Influencers Social Media Awards shine a spotlight on an invaluable array of social media users – all influencers in their own context – recognizing the incredible contributions they made, and continue to make, to the collective understanding of the pandemic and responses around the world.

The Unite Health Social Media Awards were first established in 2014 to recognize the vital roles played by social media users in relation to key global health and sustainable development issues, and have three focused goals in 2023, to:

Identify and honour the COVID-19 influencers who emerged during the pandemic, and introduce them to wider audiences and across multiple platforms;
Support the pandemic recovery phase
by bolstering the valued social media connections that the pandemic has catalysed; and
Strengthen preparedness against future pandemics and disease outbreaks by sharing lessons learned around social media ‘network readiness’.

More than a simple competition, the COVID-19 Influencers Awards are designed to recognize all those who gave their time and expertise in this way, and to allow us all to express our individual thanks for their dedicated, dependable, informed, sometimes insistent but heartfelt voices online.

Importantly, the Awards also acknowledge that one positive outcome of the pandemic is an accelerated shift towards a world where informed, diverse individuals can influence and change the way vital health issues are understood and discussed in real-time.

Because they were agile and responsive to emerging issues during the pandemic, engagement with new influencers during the pandemic was often more immediate and candid than that with representatives of national or international health institutions could be.

Not surprisingly, some influencers frequently appeared as experts in mainstream media, and even as government advisers, allowing them to further help shape and guide public discourse on the pandemic.

Seven specific award categories will be established, each recognizing and acknowledging specific groups of influencers and related demographics, COVID-19 scientific/health/policy and/or services/social care specialities. Categories will be fine-tuned with partner organizations, and will be focused on individual social media influencers and up to one organizational/institutional category.

The COVID-19 Influencers Social Media Awards have been successfully held twice in the past, focusing previously on ‘Health System Strengthening’ (in 2014)1 and ‘Malaria Heroes’ (in 2015).2 Given the global scope of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2023 Awards are pursuing a much larger scale of implementation, participation and strategic ambition than previous rounds.

The COVID-19 Influencers Social Media Awards aim to be the largest global health-focused organized event to date,

with the active engagement of 300,000 people from the six geographic regions of the world, including 3,000 individual influencer nominees.

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