This warning comes as COVID-19 vaccinations slow down in the U.S. due to vaccine opposition fuelled by unsubstantiated claims regarding the safety of immunizations, and despite the recent U.S. death rate exceeding 600,000.
Murthy wrote that "Limiting the spread of misinformation about health is a moral imperative that will require an entire-of-society effort." He also served as surgeon general under President Barack Obama.
Before the internet and social media, health misinformation was a worldwide problem. The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 misinformation an "infodemic".
Murthy stated that the internet is a major source of health misinformation. He suggested that technology companies and social media platforms make significant changes to their software and products to decrease misinformation and increase access to factual, authoritative sources.
He suggested that teachers should be more educated in media literacy and critical thinking. He suggested that journalists should be responsible in debunking misinformation about health and not spread it further. He suggested that doctors and public health officials should be better at answering questions and explaining why guidelines for public health sometimes change due to new information.
Murthy advised everyday Americans to check any questionable information about their health with trusted sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and use critical thinking to determine if they are being misled. He advised that it is better to listen and ask questions than confront those you love who believe in misinformation.
Murthy stated that while some organizations may promote misinformation about health, they do so to make a profit. However, he said that there are many Americans who spread false information that does not intend to cause harm.
Murthy stated that misinformation has not only harmed our physical well-being, but also caused divisions in our families, friends and communities. "The only way we can address health misinformation in our society is to acknowledge that everyone, in all sectors of society, has a responsibility to take action."