Infodemic-19, the public health catastrophe | #students | #parents

Not long ago, I chose to major in public health for college, as I have always been interested in looking at health care from a wider perspective. Then, a pandemic swept across the globe. Ironic, right?

When I told my grandparents I would be majoring in public health, they were disgruntled and confused. My grandparents live in China, so when I translated my major into Chinese, unbeknownst to me, it meant “street cleaner.” A thought hit me: If it’s that easy to confuse translations and the spread of information, how much of it is happening around me right now?

My mind jumped to how media conglomerates portrayed COVID-19. I remember seeing that COVID-19 was just as dangerous as the seasonal flu, but I also saw that it was 10 times more dangerous. Also, what was the correct term for this virus? Coronavirus is a type of virus and COVID-19 is the official name, however they are often used interchangeably. These inaccuracies in the media will harm public health. Factually based concrete evidence that properly informs, rather than harms, consumers will benefit the well-being of our communities.

I am struck by the politicization of information that contradicts scientific, evidence-based information. This is detrimental to public health, as false information could do more harm than good. One example is the usage of hydroxychloroquine in the fight against COVID-19. There has been no scientific evidence that supports its effectiveness against COVID-19, but why have various media and governmental sources come out in support of the drug? The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons is one of the largest proponents of hydroxychloroquine. The name sounds professional and it is backed by legitimate health care professionals; however, a little digging and we can see that the group is fully aligned with the Trump administration. This compromises the validity of its claims, as they have a clear bias against non-GOP ideals.

This “infodemic” caused by the media is detrimental to us all. We, as a community, often turn to those in power for information. Sadly, we have seen leaders from the local level all the way up to the federal government distort information that fits within their own values, rather than agree with science. We need to educate ourselves to search for the original source of the information. Is the information coming from reputable sources? Is it being peer-reviewed by experts in the field? Are multiple news sources reporting the same information? These are all indicators of scientifically accurate, evidence-based information.

We are all in this together.

Gu, a graduate of Classen School of Advanced Studies at Northeast, plans to attend New York University in the fall. He wrote this as a member of Generation Citizen’s student editorial board.

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