Business of Health Care: Unfounded Health Claims

Jan 24, 2020

Roughly one in 10 news websites analyzed by NewsGuard, a project launched by two respected longtime journalists, feature misinformation about health.

 

NewsGuard analyzed nearly 3,000 websites that account for 96 percent of online engagement among Americans, and found that 11 percent provided news with health misinformation. For instance, references to the debunked link between vaccines and autism.

NewsGuard has a system of rating sites based on reliability. Of the sites considered somewhat unreliable, nearly 40 percent publish false or unfounded health claims.

The findings are especially concerning because these sites accounted for more than 49 million social media engagements — higher than for more reputable news sources such as Forbes, NPR, or Business Insider.

So how can you tell the good from the bad?

First, consider the source. If you use the Web, look for an "about us" page. Check to see who runs the site - is it a branch of the government, a university, a health organization, a hospital, or a business?

Focus on quality. Does the site have an editorial board? Is the information reviewed before it is posted? Be skeptical. You want current, unbiased information based on research. Things that sound too good to be true often are.

The Internet has made finding health information easier and faster, and much of it is indeed valuable. However, the Internet also allows rapid and widespread distribution of false and misleading information.

You should carefully consider the source of information you find on the Internet and discuss that information with your healthcare provider.