THE SCOURGE OF HEALTH MISINFORMATION. WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?

Given that arguments about fluoride and children’s dental health persist to this day, this might seem like a minor issue during a year filled with COVID-19 and other viruses, mental health, and more. However, accumulating information about fluoride is less about fluoride and more about where parents get information in terms of their social networks — not just Facebook or Instagram, but all the social connections that they availed themselves of, which could include messages obtained not only by family and friends but also by professionals.

A recent article highlights beautifully what the Surgeon General has termed misinformation “a serious threat to public health.”. Misinformation goes well beyond fluoride to include not only the well-known issues around COVID-19 mitigation and immunizations, but also around nutrition, parenting strategies, and more. Some of this is true misinformation — mistaken ideas that are spread with good intentions; however, there is also false information spread knowingly to gain credibility, followers, money… or simply to sow discord.

There are also important, actionable implications for what we can and should do to counter this trend. A recent study went beyond simply highlighting the problem; it also presented themes to help us understand how people are misled by misinformation. And how to counter this. It is really about building a track. record of trust while focusing on the most-important goal: the best health and well-being of all people of any age.

Basic concepts will serve us well for many decades to come. As the Surgeon General tells us, “limiting the spread of health misinformation is a moral and civic imperative that will require a whole-of-society effort.” It is too important for us to not get this right.

So how do we go about obtaining accurate health information? First, be careful about the sources: Good starting points are recognized institutions such as accredited medical universities and clinics such as Mayo’s etc. Also licensed practitioners with proven track records are a good source, but when in doubt, one should seek additional opinions. Secondly, unless coming from proven and reliable sources, be very skeptical of all social media postings. To counter many claims, I find Google a helpful resource, which usually presents several analyses of any given subject. Most helpful Google sources are those that are critical of seemingly overly optimistic claims. And lastly, I have tried diligently here to provide scientifically proven accuracy about many subjects related to health, and, in addition, a few others as well.

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