For Adults

COVID-19 and Health Literacy


09/01/2020 | COVID-19

Health literacy is the ability to obtain and understand information in order to make informed decisions about good health. COVID-19 has made the importance of finding accurate, thorough, and timely information more vital than ever.

Many of the tools used for identifying fake news can also be used to find accurate and science-based health information. You can learn to spot fake news in 3 easy steps and add to these skills good practices for searching for health information, including information about Covid-19.

There are several factors that have made feeling confident about information regarding COVID-19 difficult. One of them is the fact that the cornovirus was new. You may remember it was often referred to as a “novel” virus when it was first in the news in early 2020. A "novel" virus is a new strain that has not been identified in humans before. In the beginning scientists and doctors did not know very much about how it was going to affect humans. They did not know how it spread, what could be done to keep it from spreading, or how best to treat people who got it. As time has gone by much has been learned to help answer these questions. This knowledge continues to develop and evolve, causing recurring confusion about the constantly changing advice.

As Indiana residents a solid place to start for accurate and timely information is The Indiana State Department of Health. Their site reports statewide statistics on the virus and provides links to local information including updated news, local restrictions, and guidance for making the best possible health decisions. The following national resources are the next step for adding to your COVID-19 knowledge:

Avoiding Bad Information

When we are afraid, we want answers and solutions fast. There are no fast answers to complex problems like a pandemic. We want life to go back to normal and when we see something that promises it can be that way, we want to believe it.

The Federal Trade Commission has very helpful advice about how to avoid falling victim to ineffective miracle health claims including two pages specifically about avoiding coronavirus scams and fraudulent coronavirus disease (COVID-19) products. "People spend billions of dollars a year on health-related products and treatments that not only are unproven and often useless, but also sometimes are dangerous. The products promise quick cures and easy solutions for a variety of problems, from obesity and arthritis to cancer and AIDS. But the "cures" don't deliver, and people who buy them are cheated out of their money, their time, and even their health. That's why it's important to learn how to evaluate claims for products related to your health." The information provided on these pages was produced in cooperation with the Food and Drug Administration. AARP also provides good advice on the page Beware of Robocalls, Texts and Emails Promising COVID-19 Cures or Fast Stimulus Payments.

If something is shared that makes you feel especially scared or angry, think about what reason the author might have for pushing your buttons. Sensational stories that are shared a lot get more views, and more views mean more money for the platform. Additionally, the more times people see a health story on a news or social media site, the more likely they are to believe it, regardless of whether it is true or not.

Remember to sit back, take a breath, and use the skills you’ve learned through the resources in this post! If in doubt about a claim you see on Facebook or a product you are being pressured to buy, talk to your doctor, a librarian, or consult one of the resources on this page to empower yourself with good health information.

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