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Combating Disinformation in Public Health

Public health professionals work to educate and inform their communities.

In the public health arena, disinformation can prove life-threatening. And the COVID-19 pandemic has spotlighted just how dangerous it can be. Inaccurate information has led to vaccine hesitancy and the belief in dubious and dangerous treatments—part of what António Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations, calls the “massive infodemic.”1

That’s why public health professionals are working to combat disinformation and misinformation. Because whether rooted in malice or ignorance, incorrect information imperils public health. Here are some of the strategies public health institutions are deploying to combat disinformation.

Identify Disinformation

Learning to sort fact from fiction is an important first step. The Union of Concerned Scientists suggests asking these questions to ascertain a claim’s veracity:2

  • Does it seem implausible?
  • Does it confirm your beliefs or play to your emotions?
  • Is it difficult to separate facts from opinions?
  • Does it ignore experts (from government or reputable public health organizations)?
  • Is the original source hard to pin down?
  • Does the source have a stake in the claim (financial, political, etc.)?

“If the answer is ‘yes’ to one or more of these factors, you may want to further scrutinize the information to determine its validity,” the organization writes on its website.2

Engage and Educate

“Stop Myths” is one component of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vaccinate With Confidence campaign. “CDC is engaging local messengers and partners to contain the spread of misinformation and ensure key stakeholders have critical information about vaccines,” the organization says.3

The CDC plan, as stated on its website, is:3

  • Work with social media companies to promote trustworthy vaccine information.
  • Provide accurate, accessible information on vaccines to state policymakers.
  • Engage state and local health officials to advance effective local responses to misinformation.

Coordinate and Collaborate

In a March 2021 report, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Center for Health Security called for a national strategy to thwart false claims about COVID-19 and create a framework to prevent future disinformation campaigns.

The report, “National Priorities to Combat Misinformation and Disinformation for COVID-19 and Future Public Health Threats: A Call for a National Strategy,” outlined these top priorities:4

  • Intervene against false and damaging content as well as the sources propagating it.
  • Promote and ensure the abundant presence and dissemination of factual information.
  • Increase the public’s resilience to misinformation and disinformation.
  • Ensure a whole-of-nation response through multisector and multiagency collaboration.

Enhance and Advance Public Health Careers

Public health professionals know the importance of disseminating factual, evidence-based information and guidance. And at this important moment in public health history, a public health degree can help you can use your vision and voice to further that cause.

If you want to step into a public health career for the first time, you might consider earning a BS in Public Health to deepen your knowledge. In Walden University’s online public health degree program, you’ll have the choice of a General Program or one of three optional concentrations, as well as a choice of learning formats: course-based or competency-based learning.

Walden’s Master of Public Health (MPH) online degree program can help you advance your knowledge and prepare to work in settings such as government organizations, nonprofits and NGOs, universities, and health departments. Walden’s online MPH degree program is accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), signifying that the program meets accepted public health profession standards in practice, research, and service.

Earning a Doctor of Public Health can help you broaden your impact and influence as a public health leader. Walden’s doctorate in public health curriculum focuses on today’s most vital public health topics and can help you build competencies in areas such as communications, marketing, public policy and advocacy, and economics.

Walden’s online PhD in Public Health degree program is designed to help you become a more effective scholar-practitioner whose contributions improve and enhance wellness among diverse communities. This PhD in Public Health degree program offers specializations in Community Health, Environmental and Occupational Health, and Epidemiology.

The knowledge and skills you acquire earning an online health degree can prepare you to become a go-to public health professional, devising innovative solutions to today’s public health challenges and building well-informed, healthy communities.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering online bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and PhD degree public health programs. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

1Source: https://en.unesco.org/news/pandemic-and-infodemic-disinformation-modern-age
2Source: www.ucsusa.org/resources/covid-19-disinformation
3Source: www.cdc.gov/vaccines/partners/vaccinate-with-confidence.html
4Source: www.centerforhealthsecurity.org/our-work/pubs_archive/pubs-pdfs/2021/210322-misinformation.pdf

Note on Accreditation
The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) Board of Councilors acted at its September 6, 2019, meeting to accredit the Master of Public Health (MPH) Program at Walden University for a five-year term, based on an application for accreditation submitted on February 3, 2018. On June 5, 2020, the CEPH Board of Councilors accredited the Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) at Walden University, after reviewing an accreditation application submitted on April 21, 2020. CEPH is an independent agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit schools of public health and programs of public health. CEPH accreditation provides assurance that the program has been evaluated and met accepted public health profession standards in practice, research, and service. For a copy of the final self-study document and/or final accreditation report, please contact the dean of the School of Health Sciences ([email protected]).

Note on Certification
The National Board of Public Health Examiners (NBPHE) offers the Certified in Public Health (CPH) credential as a voluntary core credential for public health professionals. As the eligibility criteria may change periodically, students should visit https://www.nbphe.org/eligibility for more information about certification in public health. It is the individual’s responsibility to understand, evaluate, and comply with all requirements relating to national certification. Walden makes no representations or guarantees that completion of Walden coursework or programs will permit an individual to obtain national certification or practice as a public health professional in the state where they intend to practice.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.

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