Surgeon General Issues ‘Toolkit’ to Combat Medical ‘Misinformation’

Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy on Tuesday released a Community Toolkit for Addressing Health Misinformation to ”help Americans navigate the serious threat of health misinformation, especially online,” a press release from the Health and Human Services Office said.

”With the authorization of COVID-19 vaccines for children 5 to 11 years old, it is more important than ever that families have access to accurate, science-based information. Health misinformation is spreading fast and far online and throughout our communities,” Murthy said in the release.

”The good news is that we all have the power to help stop the spread of health misinformation during this pandemic and beyond. That’s where this toolkit comes in — to provide Americans with resources to help limit and reduce this threat to public health,” he said. 

According to the agency, the toolkit provides ”community influencers,” such as clergy, medical professionals, school administrators, teachers, librarians and others active in communities with a checklist to evaluate the accuracy of health-related content.

It also offers tips on talking to loved ones about medical misinformation, an outline of common misinformation and disinformation tactics, and examples of times people have encountered misinformation.

White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday that a Kaiser Family Foundation report found vaccine and pandemic misinformation as being ”widespread” throughout the country, with 78% of adults saying they have heard at least one of eight pieces of misinformation regarding COVID-19.

”As we continue our efforts to vaccinate more Americans, including children, it’s mission critical Americans have access to accurate information so they can make health decisions based on the facts,” she said in Tuesday’s White House press briefing.

In the Kaiser Family Foundation’s report, the organization blamed the rise of social media and growing distrust in mainstream news outlets for ”ambiguous information, misinterpretation, and deliberate disinformation to spread.”

”While nearly half trust information about COVID-19 that they see on network and local television news, trust is lower for other news outlets and diverges in expected ways along partisan lines,” the report said.

”Unvaccinated adults are far less likely than vaccinated adults to trust most of the news sources included in the survey for information on COVID-19, with the exception of conservative news sources.”

To avoid disinformation, the surgeon general’s toolkit recommends checking with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or local health departments to see if there is any truth in the claim being made.

Or ask a credible healthcare professional, such as your doctor or a nurse, to see if the claim has been verified or confirmed by a reputable source, check the source of the claim to see if they can be trusted, and don’t share the claim if you are not sure it has been confirmed.

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