Volunteers launch an information resource for physicians during the pandemic

Fake news operates the same way as rumors and can be insidious in that it can cause panic, fear, and conflict. It spreads very quickly, either by word of mouth or by going viral in chat rooms or social media channels. Fake news in the context of the current situation with coronavirus can be dangerous or even deadly to Kazakhstan’s population. The online spread of fake news about COVID-19 exposes people to unverified information about drugs, unofficial methods of treatment, and various medical protocols of treatment.

A group of volunteers guided by Dr. Dana Akilbekova, the Assistant professor of Nazarbayev University School of Engineering and Digital Sciences, and Akmaral Tursunova, a lawyer, and entrepreneur, launched the telegram channel medsupport.kz to help Kazakhstani doctors and society combat fake news. This group of scientists, students, and doctors all volunteer their time and efforts to fight this important issue.

“Мedsupport.kz is an informational platform where translated scientific studies are published. The threshold for posting information on the site is very rigorous – the information must be evaluated for scientific accuracy, importance, medical efficacy, reliability of the source, etc. Volunteers translate scientific articles on coronavirus from highly respected and established sources such as nature.com and thelancet.com. There are about ten reliable journals and resources from which the volunteers regularly source material. The volunteer scientists also translate and compare different countries’ current treatment protocols with Kazakhstan’s, ” said Dr.Dana Akilbekova.

The main aim of this project is to provide informational support to doctors in times of uncertainty when there is a lack of scientific information and practical materials. Research around the world is making great inroads in the battle against COVID-19, however, much of the most current scientific information remains inaccessible to medical personnel in Kazakhstan because these research studies are often published in English or other languages that local doctors do not speak. Additionally, the project aims to inform the general population of Kazakhstan about the current treatment protocols. Those who have mild cases may not have an urgent need to call an ambulance, but still face difficulties and worry, and they need advice and support. The channel helps provide people with a simple understanding of how to treat the disease, how to safely monitor their condition, and when they need to seek professional help.

“The analysis is performed by our doctoral candidates, as well as medical practitioners who work with patients. Students or graduates of medical universities or the Faculty of Biology and Chemistry, young scientists, and translators are welcome to join our project. We receive messages from doctors who thank us for translating research, they now know more and feel confident in their work. This is what important for us,” said Akmaral Tursunova.

Currently, there are 90 people volunteering for this project. Most of the volunteers are current students and graduates of Nazarbayev University. The students and doctoral candidates of many other universities –both local and foreign – also volunteer, as well as translators. Finally, many medical practitioners give their time to the project. In a very short period of time, more than 5000 people subscribed to the channel. Half of the subscribers are doctors, the other half are those who are interested in reading cutting-edge research from around the world in Russian.

Nazarbayev University has been actively involved in combating the coronavirus pandemic since it first appeared in Kazakhstan. The university has rallied the experience of its faculty, campus infrastructure, logistical capacity, and the support of its management to help in this fight.