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VCU Libraries is online while buildings are closed. VCU Libraries COVID-19 response

Avoiding Misinformation about COVID-19: Tips to evaluate and find trusted information

March 30, 2020
Image of the microscopic virus

By Dana L. Ladd, MS, Ph.D., AHIP 
VCU Medical Center Health and Wellness Librarian

 

During the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health crisis, information abounds from various sources including websites, social media, television, and even from friends and family members. A simple search on Google for “COVID-19” yields over 12,210,000,000 results. Facebook feeds are full of shared posts from friends with information about COVID-19. With all of this information, how can we know what is trustworthy health information and what is not?   

Before using any information to make decisions about your health it is important to critically evaluate the information for reliability and trustworthiness. Use the following criteria to evaluate the information you find online or hear about from others: 

Evaluation of Information

Authority

Find out the source of the information provided. Anybody can post health information online and on social media but the person writing the information may not be an expert or qualified to provide reliable information. Find out who authored the health content of the page or information. Does the author have the appropriate knowledge of COVID-19? Search for the credentials of the author to help determine this. This information can usually be found under the “About Us” section of the webpage. A caution to note is that even if the author has the appropriate credentials he/she may be biased.

Bias

Evaluate the information for possible bias. Look for the purpose of the information provided. Some websites exist to educate and inform based upon scientific research. Other sites or sources of information may exist only to sell a product or to perpetuate a personal or political belief that may not be based on scientific facts. Fear may make people more susceptible to being taken advantage of. 

Accuracy

Ask yourself if the information you received is accurate. Determining accuracy may be difficult for those who are not medical professionals but there are steps you can take to verify accuracy. Compare information to known reliable sources of information. Compare the information to the medical and scientific research being published. When searching online for information about COVID-19 use sites that are librarian-vetted, reliable sources of information. A list of trustworthy websites about COVID-19 is found below. A librarian can help you find consumer information and medical research literature.

Currency

Check the site to see if the information is up to date. COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving situation with new medical research and information being disseminated every day so it is even more important to make sure you are receiving current information.

These are current, reliable and trustworthy sites for information about COVID-19. 

For Virginia information

For more information about evaluating information

When reading any information about COVID-19 or any health-related topic, first stop and think. Evaluate the information before acting on or sharing information with others. Before making decisions that will impact your health, be sure to talk to a qualified health care provider.

If you are still unsure about the reliability of the information or need to find information about COVID-19 or any health-related topic, ask a librarian. The VCU Medical Center Health and Wellness Library staff can help you find reliable health information. We can direct you to quality, accurate, reliable consumer health websites and information. Call us at (804) 828-2432 or email healthlibrary@vcuhealth.org The library, located on the ground floor of VCU Medical Center’s Gateway buiding is closed.

Dana Ladd is the Health and Wellness Librarian at the VCU Medical Center Health and Wellness Library, part of Tompkins-McCaw for the Health Sciences.

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