Misinformation as a Misunderstood Challenge to Public Health

      The concept of misinformation as a problem appears prominently in recent academic literature and public discourse, as researchers have raised concerns about the spread of inaccurate information online, decision making based on problematic information, and even the acceptance of medical conspiracy theories.
      • Chou W-YS
      • Oh A
      • Klein WMP
      Addressing health-related misinformation on social media.
      • Oliver JE
      • Wood T
      Medical conspiracy theories and health behaviors in the United States.
      • Vosoughi S
      • Roy D
      • Aral S
      The spread of true and false news online.
      Misinformation is false or inaccurate information regardless of intentional authorship, and yet much discussion about misinformation has focused on malicious acts to infect social media platforms with false information. Worries about blatantly “fake” information imply an active and strategic presentation of falsehoods that threaten to have dramatic effects on public health. Such popular emphasis on examples of explicitly fake content, however understandable, nonetheless subtly directs attention away from core systemic challenges that public health and medical professionals face in protecting and improving population health through the communication and dissemination of accurate information.
      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to American Journal of Preventive Medicine
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Chou W-YS
        • Oh A
        • Klein WMP
        Addressing health-related misinformation on social media.
        JAMA. 2018; 320: 2417-2418
        • Oliver JE
        • Wood T
        Medical conspiracy theories and health behaviors in the United States.
        JAMA Intern Med. 2014; 174: 817-818
      1. Southwell BG Thorson EA Sheble L Misinformation and Mass Audiences. University of Texas Press, Austin, TX2018
        • Vosoughi S
        • Roy D
        • Aral S
        The spread of true and false news online.
        Science. 2018; 359: 1146-1151
        • National Cancer Institute
        HCIRB research priority: misinformation in the age of social media.
        National Cancer Institute, Rockville, MD2018
        • Fishbein M
        • Ajzen I
        Predicting and Changing Behavior: the Reasoned Action Approach.
        Psychology Press, New York, NY2010
        • Fishbein M
        • Cappella JN
        The role of theory in developing effective health communications.
        J Commun. 2006; 56: s1-s17
        • Hornik RC
        • Yanovitzky I
        Using theory to design evaluations of communication campaigns: the case of the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign.
        Commun Theor. 2003; 13: 204-224
        • Lewandowsky S
        • Ecker UKH
        • Cook J
        Beyond misinformation: understanding and coping with the “post-truth” era.
        J Appl Res Mem Cogn. 2017; 6: 353-369
        • Schwanholz J
        • Graham T
        • Stoll P-T
        Managing Democracy in the Digital Age.
        Springer International, Basel, Switzerland2018
        • Bode L
        • Vraga EK
        In related news, that was wrong: the correction of misinformation through related stories functionality in social media.
        J Commun. 2015; 65: 619-638
        • Broniatowski DA
        • Jamison AM
        • Qi S
        • et al.
        Weaponized health communication: Twitter bots and Russian trolls amplify the vaccine debate.
        Am J Public Health. 2018; 108: 1378-1384
        • Chambers SK
        • Dunn J
        • Occhipinti S
        • et al.
        A systematic review of the impact of stigma and nihilism on lung cancer outcomes.
        BMC Cancer. 2012; 12: 184
        • Sriram N
        • Mills J
        • Lang E
        • et al.
        Attitudes and stereotypes in lung cancer versus breast cancer.
        PLOS ONE. 2015; 10e0145715
        • Weiss J
        • Stephenson BJ
        • Edwards LJ
        • Rigney M
        • Copeland A
        Public attitudes about lung cancer: stigma, support, and predictors of support.
        J Multidiscip Healthc. 2014; 7: 293-300
        • Graham J
        • Haidt J
        • Koleva S
        • et al.
        Chapter two – moral foundations theory: the pragmatic validity of moral pluralism.
        Adv Exp Soc Psychol. 2013; 47: 55-130
        • Niederdeppe J
        • Gollust S
        • Barry CL
        Inoculation in competitive framing: examining message effects on policy preferences.
        Public Opin Q. 2014; 78: 634-655
      2. Ivanov B, Parker KA, Dillingham LL. Inoculation as a risk and health communication strategy in an evolving media environment. In: O'Hair HD, ed. Risk and Health Communication in an Evolving Media Environment. New York City, NY: Routledge, 2018:249--277.

        • Jacobson S
        • Wang W
        CHIME: The Campaign for Health Information Empowerment.
        in: Southwell BG Boudewyns V Curbing the Spread of Misinformation: Insights, Innovations, and Interpretations From the Misinformation Solutions Forum. RTI Press, Research Triangle Park, NC2018 (RTI Press Publication No. CP-0008-1812)
        • Lee G
        • Cappella JN
        • Southwell BG
        The effects of news and entertainment on interpersonal trust: political talk radio, newspapers, and television.
        Mass Commun Soc. 2003; 6: 413-434