Responses to health misinformation in mass media recommended

Posted 31 July 2019

Fifteen scholars at institutions in Canada have reviewed how health misinformation is spread through mass media and have recommended policy and communication correctives.

Reference: Caulfield T. and others. Health misinformation and the power of narrative messaging in the public sphere. Canadian Journal of Bioethics 2:52-60, 2019

They describe problems of: (a) misleading narratives spread through social media; (b) implicit hype of emerging therapies by the popular press, pseudoscience embraced by journalists; (c) use of “scienceploitation” language of quantum physics, stem cells, genetics, and microbiome research for hype; and (d) misleading narratives in health-related crowdfunding. They recommend four “legal and policy tools” followed by seven “social tools” in response:

  • Better enforcement of existing truth in advertising law, and/or improvements thereto
  • Regulatory policy change and enforcement for health professionals spreading misinformation
  • Policy outlining rules for and encouraging expert media engagement and the use of narrative
  • Litigation
  • Advocacy by nonprofit organizations (e.g., litigation against Goop)
  • Advocacy by individuals (official complaints, social media activism)
  • Expert engagement in the popular press and on social media to counter misinformation
  • Encouragement of social media companies to combat misinformation by modifying platforms
  • Opinion editorials
  • Use of creative communication strategies that utilize narratives, art, video, etc.
  • Support and adoption of further research on effective communication strategies

Source: Consumer Health Digest #19-30, July 28 2019

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