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Health Misinformation

With the abundance of health information available today, it can be hard to tell what is true or not. We all need access to trusted sources of information to stay safe and healthy.

The Health Misinformation advisory cover sheet, titled Confronting Health Misinformation, The U.S. Surgeon General's Advisory on Building a Healthy Information Environment

Why health misinformation matters

We can all benefit from taking steps to improve the quality of health information we consume. Limiting misinformation helps us make more educated decisions for ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities.

“Health misinformation is a serious threat to public health. It can cause confusion, sow mistrust, harm people’s health, and undermine public health efforts.”
—Dr. Vivek H. Murthy
Surgeon General of the United States

Defining misinformation

Misinformation is information that is false, inaccurate, or misleading according to the best available evidence at the time.

Effects related to COVID-19

During the pandemic, health misinformation has led people to decline vaccines, reject public health measures, and use unproven treatments. Health misinformation has also led to harassment and violence against health workers, airline staff, and other frontline workers tasked with communicating evolving public health measures.

How health misinformation spreads

The growing number of places people go to for information has made it easier for misinformation to spread at a never-before-seen speed and scale. Misinformation spreads especially easily on social media and online retail sites, as well as via search engines.

Addressing health misinformation

Together, we have the power to build a healthier information environment. Just as we have all benefited from efforts to improve air and water quality, limiting the prevalence and impact of misinformation benefits individual and public health.

Misinfo Q&A with Dr. Vivek Murthy

A sketch of Surgeon General Dr. Murthy speaking with 2 people at a table. One is a woman in a wheelchair taking a sip from a mug. The other is a man in front of an open laptop.

How can we take action?

Everyone has the power to stop misinformation from spreading. By taking the following steps, we can protect ourselves and loved ones from harmful misinformation.

Ways to act based on your role

What individuals can do:

  1. Learn how to identify and avoid sharing health misinformation.
  2. Engage with your friends and family on the problem of health misinformation.
  3. Address health misinformation in your community.

Ways to act based on your role

Spread the word with these shareable tools

The Surgeon General’s Community Toolkit for Addressing Health Misinformation provides specific guidance and resources for health care providers, educators, librarians, faith leaders, and trusted community members to understand, identify, and stop the spread of health misinformation in their communities.

Developed in collaboration with the Office of Evaluation Sciences (OES)

Additional Resources