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A free online session "HealthTalk: Combatting Misinformation during COVID-19" on Thursday, Oct. 29 is among a series of initiatives from UHN Patient Education and Engagement to combat the infodemic of misinformation. (Photo: iStock)

Misinformation – False or inaccurate information that is communication regardless of an intention to deceive. – Oxford Languages

Eight months into the pandemic, it remains hard to keep track of the latest COVID-19 updates.

As the volume of information about the coronavirus swells across social media, so has the rate of disinformation and misinformation.

According a study by Carleton University, 46 per cent of Canadians believed at least one of four unfounded COVID-19 theories, including such ones as it's an engineered bioweapon and is being used to cover up the harmful effects of 5G wireless technology.

The spread of misinformation (or disinformation) may leave the average person more confused about what is best for their health and what the most up-to-date and accurate information is. It can also make them less trusting of public health officials.

Healthcare organizations, including hospitals, have an important role to play in helping to combat this infodemic. UHN Patient Education and Engagement has launched a series of initiatives to help curb misinformation.

"Good quality health information allows us to make informed decisions about our health, including how to keep ourselves and our community safe during the pandemic by following social distancing recommendations," says Lisa Cunningham of UHN Patient & Family Learning Centres, a presenter at the upcoming HealthTalk: Combatting Misinformation during COVID-19.

Health Literacy Month Logo  

All patients, families, staff, and community members are invited to take part in the free online session on Thursday, Oct. 29 from 1 p.m. to 2pm. Topics will include:

  • The importance of having reliable information
  • What to look for when finding quality health information
  • Resources at UHN and in the community that can help you learn more about COVID-19

Read more about the session and register

Other resources available at UHN to combat misinformation and disinformation include:

  • The Patient and Family Learning Centres have also put together a resource page that addresses misconceptions and confusions about COVID-19, the influenza virus (flu), and the common cold.

On the page you will find:

    • COVID-19, flu and the common cold – similarities and differences
    • COVID-19 and seasonal allergies
    • Why getting the flu shot is more important than ever this year?

The Science of COVID-19

In a recent statement aimed at combatting misinformation and disinformation about COVID-19, the World Health Organization and other United Nations agencies said: "Misinformation costs lives. Without the appropriate trust and correct information, diagnostic tests go unused, immunization campaigns (or campaigns to promote effective vaccines) will not meet their targets, and the virus will continue to thrive."

UHN's Library & Information Services has risen to meet that challenge of combatting misinformation among clinicians, patients, caregivers with its Science of COVID-19 database.

Created by Library & Information Services and the Michener Library Network, the database provides educational and clinical resources and also real-time answers by providing curated and reliable information from authoritative sources.

In the Science of COVID-19, you will find:

  • Emerging Evidence: a forum to ask COVID-19-related questions that will be answered by information specialists (Librarians) using the latest evidence
  • Resources to assist 'upskilling' of staff being redeployed (e.g., clinicians that are moving into providing critical care)
  • Self-care aids to help you maintain wellness and resiliency during this pandemic (in collaboration with Wellness) epidemiology, virology and research resources

Learn more from Library & Information Services.

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