Press Room

ASTHO Supports the U.S. Surgeon General’s New Advisory on Health Misinformation

ARLINGTON, VA (July 15, 2021) — Michael Fraser, chief executive officer of The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), issued the following statement today on U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy’s new advisory: Confronting Misinformation: The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory on Building a Healthy Information Environment.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, misinformation spread faster than the virus itself, sowing confusion and mistrust that resulted in countless lives lost. At the same time, it tore apart the fabric of our society and divided our communities. That is why ASTHO is eager to partner with Surgeon General Vivek Murthy to build a healthier information environment by slowing the spread of misinformation.

“According to the advisory, people were exposed to a great deal of information during the pandemic: news, public health guidance, fact sheets, infographics, research, opinions, and more. People were also exposed to health misinformation: information that was false, inaccurate, or misleading according to the best available evidence at the time.

“Misinformation is an existential threat and the fight against it must be a national priority. The findings of the surgeon general’s advisory illustrate the negative impact of misinformation on the nation’s ability to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the surgeon general noted that misinformation caused confusion and led people to decline COVID-19 vaccines; reject public health measures such as masking and physical distancing; use unproven treatments; and harass public health workers, health professionals, airline staff, and other frontline workers tasked with communicating evolving public health measures.

“ASTHO is proud to partner with Surgeon General Vivek Murthy to address the spread of misinformation and build a safer, healthier society. Specifically, we support his recommendations to convene government leaders and nonprofit partners to identify best practices to counter misinformation; modernize public health community engagement strategies; increase resources and technical assistance to state, tribal, local, and territorial health departments; and expand efforts to build long-term resilience to misinformation. By taking these steps, we will protect the health and safety of all Americans and chart a new course in public health.”

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ASTHO is the national nonprofit organization representing the public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. territories and Freely Associated States, and the District of Columbia, as well as the more than 100,000 public health professionals these agencies employ. ASTHO members, the chief health officials of these jurisdictions, are dedicated to formulating and influencing sound public health policy and to ensuring excellence in public health practice.