Analysis of changes in population behaviour during synchronous online searches for information on Diabetes Mellitus in times of pandemic

Introduction:The emergence of influenza A (H1N1) and COVID-19, both classified as pandemics by the World Health Organisation (WHO), strongly impacted the population because of the health emergency they represented for the public, in general, and for people with a previous chronic pathology, in particular. Over the last few years, far from the number of worldwide diagnosed cases of Diabetes Mellitus (DM) decreasing, the number has actually increased. Classified as non-communicable disease, DM needs to be properly treated to avoid its serious sequelae. Being a group with a higher risk condition, poor control of this disease can reduce the quality of life of these patients and adversely impact their personal and/or professional development. If a comprehensive approach to DM  is complex, care becomes significantly complicated when subsequent health problems, such as those caused by these viruses, occur.

Objectives:To analyse, at the global level, the interest of population in health information related to the two pandemics and DM by examining their online search behaviour during the weeks before and after the date of the official declaration of pandemics by the WHO.

Methodology:The monitoring of preferences of collective interests and needs using the Segmented Regression Analysis (SRA) has been conducted by analysing time trends in the epidemiological data provided by the WHO. Further, Google Trends was utilised to assess the change in the Relative Search Volume as an indicator of the on-line Information Seeking Behaviour since the beginning of the Influenza A pandemic crisis, as well as the current COVID-19 pandemic. All data have been processed using “Segmented” (R package).

Results: The SRA is a robust modelling technique. This method has enabled analysing exhaustive data and graphical traceability of the series over time and it has allowed the estimation of the dynamic changes monitored.  Through this research design, changes in search behaviour toward DM have been highlighted from the time of the WHO’s official declaration.

Conclusions:Both pandemics analysed challenged global health systems and deepened people’s concern for their health. While public awareness of these infectious pandemics was rising, public interest in DM remained high. Online health resources were able to monitor citizens’ interest in certain diseases and their awareness of DM.

Palabras clave

Diabetes Mellitus Pandemic Segmented Regression Analysis

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Los autores de la ponencia

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Irene Bosch Frigola

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Misericòrdia Carles lavila

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Fernando Coca-Villalba

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