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Following San Diego County’s Lead, Nevada’s Clark County Takes Stand Against Health Misinformation

09/21/21

 

San Diego County’s declaration of health misinformation as a public health crisis has led a growing chorus of other localities taking similar action, now including Nevada’s largest county, Clark County. The Clark County Commission voted 5-2 to declare health misinformation a public health crisis and acknowledge that it is driving vaccine hesitancy and prolonging the pandemic. Clark County Commissioner Justin Jones led the measure, which makes Clark County the latest in a growing list of local governments to take a stand against health misinformation, including Monterey County (CA), and Sacramento County (CA). The California State Assembly has also taken similar action , led by Assemblymember Dr. Akilah Weber. 

 

Clark County includes the city of Las Vegas and is the 11th largest county in the nation, with more than two million residents.  

“Every community has a responsibility to do more to confront health misinformation directly,” said Chair Fletcher. “Without this piece, local governments will never see the end of this pandemic. I want to congratulate Commissioner Jones and the Clark County Commission for joining us in declaring health misinformation a public health crisis. Confronting health misinformation is a critical component of our COVID response efforts that will help us care for our communities and save lives.”

Earlier this month, the 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 health 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:

o    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,

o    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,

o    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,

o    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,

o    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,

o    Identify resource gaps to combating health misinformation and working with state and federal partners to meet ongoing needs, and 

o    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. 

Declaring Health Misinformation a Public Health Crisis aligns with Chair Nathan Fletcher’s Framework for the Future of San Diego County . The Framework prioritizes communities and populations in San Diego that have been historically left behind. Through this Framework, Chair Fletcher is fighting for racial justice, health equity, economic opportunity, environmental protection, government transparency, and fundamental changes to county operations.