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CALIFORNIA ELECTEDS FOLLOW SAN DIEGO COUNTY’S LEAD ON HEALTH MISINFORMATION POLICY

09/03/21

Chair Nathan Fletcher’s policy -- the first in the United States -- to make medical misinformation a public health crisis has inspired elected officials from other areas of California to join the fight against medical misinformation. Today, the California State Assembly approved a measure brought forward by Assemblymember Dr. Akilah Weber, and on Thursday Supervisor Luis Alejo from Monterey County said he plans to bring forward a medical misinformation policy in his community.      

 

“I am thrilled Assemblymember Weber and Supervisor Alejo are joining the fight against health misinformation,” said Chair Fletcher. “Medical misinformation is prolonging the COVID-19 pandemic nationally, and it requires all of us coming together to fight back and slow the spread of misinformation. It’s time to address this national issue everywhere. We are ready to work with leaders at all levels to make combatting health misinformation a priority in order to maximize booster shot vaccinations later this year.” 

 

On Thursday. U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy applauded San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher for his “bold action” to draft and pass policy declaring medical misinformation a public health crisis. Chair Fletcher’s policy makes San Diego County the first in the nation to take on medical misinformation, a recognized contributor to vaccine hesitancy, the rising cases, and hospitalizations.

 

Surgeon General Murthy’s endorsement came by quote tweeting Chair Fletcher’s announcement that the medical misinformation policy passed. The Surgeon General said, “I’m grateful @SupFletcher took on this issue -- it’s the kind of bold action we need to ensure we all have accurate, science-based information to inform our health.”

 

The U.S. Surgeon General recently issued an advisory entitled “Confronting Health Misinformation. ”

 

Chair Fletcher believes tackling health misinformation needs to start on the ground, in counties and cities across our nation. He introduced the policy at a time when 83.7% of the County’s COVID-19 cases are amongst not fully vaccinated people and 96.7% of the County’s hospitalizations are amongst not fully vaccinated people, since March of 2021. Leading experts in the field of public health agree health misinformation is a major contributor to rising COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and vaccine hesitancy.

 

Chair Fletcher’s first in the nation policy passed by a vote of 3-2. It came after many hours of public testimony from mostly right-wing, anti-vaxxers. The vote:

 

Chair Fletcher’s policy will implement the following strategies cited by the U.S. Surgeon General's advisory:

  • Devote resources to identify and label health misinformation and disseminate timely health information to counter misinformation that is impeding our ability to keep our community safe,
  • Modernize public health communications with investments to better understand gaps in health information, and questions and concerns of the community, especially in hard-to-reach communities. Develop targeted community engagement strategies, including partnerships with trusted messengers,
  • Expand our research efforts to better define and understand the sources of health misinformation, document and trace its costs and negative impacts, and develop strategies to address and counter it across mediums and diverse communities,
  • Invest in resilience against health misinformation including digital resources and training for health practitioners and health workers. Explore educational programs to help our communities distinguish evidence-based information from opinion and personal stories,
  • Partner with federal, state, territorial, tribal, private, nonprofit, research, and other local entities to identify best practices to stop the spread of health misinformation and develop and implement coordinated recommendations,
  • Identify resource gaps to combating health misinformation and working with state and federal partners to meet ongoing needs, and 
  •  Work with the medical community and local partners to develop a website that will serve as a central resource for combating health misinformation in our community.