If you’ve ever gone to look for information about health concerns online, you’ve probably noticed a disturbing trend. Many of the “sources” of information you find are dubious in their accuracy at best. Most of them seem designed for clickbait purposes to generate ad revenue or promote political ideologies regarding healthcare. The overreliance on the internet as a source of information has led to it being a significant risk to public health.
How Misinformation Has Impacted Public Health
One significant example of the impact of misinformation on public health concerns cancer treatments. Consider the case of Steve Jobs of Apple. When first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, he opted to attempt various alternative therapies for treating cancer. These treatments include spiritual consultations, herbal remedies, acupuncture, fruit juice therapy, and special diets. None of these treatments were backed by evidence-based science, and he stated his regret over-relying on these treatments near the end of his life. While he began traditional treatments later in his life, even the best care available to a multi-billionaire couldn’t compensate for the time lost.
Sadly this story is not unique to eccentric billionaires with a central role in getting web access into the hands of people everywhere. People from far less prestigious positions have relied on supposedly effective treatments found online. Their reasons range from distrusting medical science to simply lacking the funds to afford more traditional treatment options. There is a worrying distrust in science-backed treatments due to the perceived trustworthiness of some authority sites that carry these alternative treatments.
Even more worrying was the coordinated assault on medical science during the COVID-19 pandemic. Using social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, dissidents reached out to the public with reams of misinformation in a well-organized campaign. This was no mistake, and a few conspiracy-minded nutjobs didn’t just drive it. Instead, this attack was backed by significant finances and those who saw an opportunity for political and financial gain. The result was a pandemic that impacted our day-to-day lives and was significantly more deadly than needed.
One disturbing aspect of this trend is the promotion of misinformation for financial gain. From social media companies to fraudsters selling snake oil remedies, many financially profit from misinformation.
Protecting Yourself and Your Family From Health Disinformation
With the wealth of disinformation and those invested in spreading it for personal gain, it’s important to learn how to protect yourself. This requires that you reach out to reputable sources of accurate information, such as the CDC and licensed medical professionals. These individuals are invested in ensuring that you and your family have the right information to protect your health. You can also research the treatments through sources such as the National Institute of Health, the CDC, and peer-reviewed medical journals. Vigilance and respecting the proper sources are essential in protecting your family’s health.