The rapid onset of the Covid-19 pandemic has brought about a bewildering swarm of information about all aspects of the virus, and its impact. But, “caveat lector (let the reader beware)”, fact-based information is often not what reaches the public. In critical times like this, science has the opportunity to step forward and provide trusted clarity and credibility. In the United States, the public has access to some of the foremost sources of accurate and trustworthy online medical content through government organizations such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), world-renowned medical organizations such as Mayo Clinic, and leading university medical centers like Johns Hopkins University but the important revelations and advice of these scientific communities often doesn’t make it to the public it is designed to support.
Accurate information is getting buried online. Public health organizations’ publishing and distribution strategies have are responding by targeting their information more precisely to audiences when they need it and at the point of care.
It is no longer sufficient to wait for information seekers to find reliable content; it is now culturally beholden on public health organizations to seek out the audiences they serve in the complex digital spaces where more consumers are spending their time and expecting convenient and highly relevant information to be served up based on effortless and highly personalized match making algorithms.
There is urgency to get this right. The consequences of failing are severe and already upon us. For instance, the Pew Research Center recently issued a report titled, “Americans who primarily get news through social media are least likely to follow COVID-19 coverage, most likely to report seeing made-up news.”