Happy New Year! As we enter 2023, the battle against misinformation has to get stronger. In today’s era of digitalisation, information spreads at the speed of light, and misinformation spreads even faster!
The media, especially digital media, has been a boon in many areas. However, disseminating misinformation has been one of its biggest banes in recent times. Misinformation, especially in the medical field, can have disastrous consequences – for personal health as well as public health.
In my own practice, I see lot of people eager to believe in miracle treatments. Complete cure of diabetes is the most sought-after, followed by non-surgical treatment for severe arthritis. As human beings, we prefer to hear what we want to, not necessarily what is true. It is the responsibility of medical practitioners to ensure that people don’t fall for half-truths or false promises of miracle cures.
Healthcare providers should actively engage with patients and their families by providing them with correct resources on the disease, treatment modalities, and also about the current pandemic situation. It helps to create easy-to-comprehend messages and share them across social media channels to enhance access to accurate health information.
However, this cannot be the responsibility of healthcare practitioners alone. It is very important that all of us take charge to prevent the spread of health misinformation. As individuals, we should look for sources that are authentic, reviewed, and fact-checked. We need to educate our near and dear ones so that they do not fall prey to sites that publish misinformation. It’s prudent to flag such misleading ‘news’. That way, appropriate authorities can take action and help prevent it from spreading further.
Media and journalists have to play a vital role in curtailing the spread of misinformation. As do government agencies, policy makers and health researchers. Only then can we ensure that the right information reaches the right people at the right time.
As a member of First Check, I’m keen to see the fact-checking community grow and make a greater impact. As far as resolutions for the New Year go, how about getting in touch with First Check whenever you come across any dubious health claims? You can mail the team at email@example.com or WhatsApp on +91 9311 223145 to verify any health-related information.
That will be way forward for us in 2023 and beyond.
Dr Chandrika Kambam
Medical Director - Even Healthcare, India