Health Groups Convene to Tackle Misinformation

The Coalition for Trust in Health and Science will spend two years sharing insights and best practices for promoting accurate public health guidance.

Healthcare, pharmaceutical, and other related associations have joined forces to address misinformation about science and public health.

The formation of the Coalition for Trust in Health and Science was announced March 2 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Its goal is to gather information and develop best practices for sharing factual information about science and medicine—and reducing the reach of misinformation.

The coalition, which has launched with 50 member organizations, is intended to develop tools “so that when we see misinformation, we quickly combat it …not with one voice, or one organization, or one community group, or one patient advocate, but all of us singing from the same sheet of music,” said Julie Gerberding, CEO of the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health.

Concerns about misinformation exploded during the COVID-19 pandemic, and many organizations have emerged since 2020 to address misstatements about the dangers of the virus and the safety of vaccines. For instance, one of the coalition’s seven founding Convening Committee members is Dr. Reed Tuckson, cofounder of the Black Coalition Against Covid, which has hosted events and shared vetted public-health information to dispel vaccine skepticism and conspiracy theories about the virus.

The United States is experiencing a tidal wave of misinformation and disinformation.

Dr. Reed Tuckson

“The United States is experiencing a tidal wave of misinformation and disinformation, which has real-world health impacts, such as preventable misery and deaths, and is escalating already dangerously high levels of mistrust and distrust in healthcare, public health, and science,” Tuckson said in a statement.

But veteran organizations like the American Medical Association, American Hospital Association, and more have also developed their own resources and response strategies. The Coalition’s stated hope is that by pooling resources, members of the medical, scientific research, pharmaceutical, and public health realms can address problems through proven methods, rather than attempting to do them individually. To facilitate that, the Coalition has created a members-only Compendium where participants can share details about their organizations’ misinformation-response programs and share research about what communication tools are most effective. 

For instance, in a release announcing its participation in the Coalition, the American College of Physicians noted its work developing research and creating rapid-response tools for members and public-facing YouTube videos to confront misinformation around COVID-19. “We’re going to share tools and tactics,” said ACP CEO Dr. Darilyn V. Moyer in a statement.

Participation in the coalition is presented as a way to benefit not only the member associations but also the public. Among the benefits, according to the Coalition’s website, are “partners for specific initiatives” and “rapid-cycle debunking” of particularly egregious emerging disinformation and misinformation incidents. 

Currently, the Coalition is managed through a seven-member group of founding members, including Gerberding and Tuckson. In the next two years, though, it plans to establish a more formal governance structure and action plan.

“This collective collaboration has the potential to achieve the vision of evidence-based decision-making in healthcare far more effectively than individual action,” said AAAS CEO Sudip Parikh at the press conference.

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Mark Athitakis

By Mark Athitakis

Mark Athitakis, a contributing editor for Associations Now, has written on nonprofits, the arts, and leadership for a variety of publications. He is a coauthor of The Dumbest Moments in Business History and hopes you never qualify for the sequel. MORE

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