Luján, Murphy Reintroduce Legislation To Combat Public Health Misinformation

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), both members of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, on Wednesday announced reintroduction of legislation to counter the threat that misinformation and disinformation pose to public health. The Promoting Public Health Information Act would support efforts across the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and with outside stakeholders to communicate effectively during a public health emergency and address health misinformation. U.S. Representatives Diana DeGette (D-Colo.-1) and Kathy Castor (D-Fla.-14) introduced the companion legislation in the House.

The Promoting Public Health Information Act would authorize the HHS Secretary to:

  • Establish the Public Health Information and Communications Advisory Committee within HHS to include federal officials and others with expertise in public health, medicine, communications, and national security. The Advisory Committee would make recommendations on effective ways to communicate scientific and medical information and understand the impact of misinformation during a public health emergency.
  • Issue awards to develop evidenced-based initiatives to educate the public and promote fact-based public health and medical science.
  • Spend $45 million for purposes related to the educational initiative and Advisory Committee.

“Misinformation and disinformation create dangerous consequences wherever it exists, especially in public health,” said Luján. “The pandemic demonstrated how clear and accessible public health information can be instrumental in protecting our communities and saving lives. That’s why I’m proud to join my colleagues to introduce legislation to strengthen HHS abilities to communicate health updates to the public, ensuring our communities are equipped with the information needed for any future public health emergency.”

“During the pandemic, we saw how health misinformation can have devastating, sometimes fatal consequences. We need to do a better job of making sure that fact-based health information is more salient than the rumors and conspiracy theories that run rampant on social media. This legislation would help HHS communicate more effectively during public health emergencies, ultimately saving lives,” said Murphy.

“In Florida, we have seen the devastating consequences of the spread of misinformation and disinformation during the Covid19 pandemic. These dangerous efforts repeatedly undercut the hard work of public health officials who were up against one of the greatest threats to our country in modern times, eroding public confidence in vital institutions at the time we relied on them most. I am proud to sponsor this bill to counter this type of misinformation and ensure that the public has the best information based on solid science to make decisions in the future,” said Castor.

“One of the things we have learned in responding to public health emergencies – such as SARS, Ebola and, now, COVID-19 – is that time is of the essence,” said DeGette. “When a potential threat emerges, it is critical that we immediately have all hands on deck to contain it as soon as possible – and that requires providing the public with the accurate and timely information they need to protect themselves and their families. Ensuring our public health agencies have the tools they need to effectively communicate to the American people during a crisis is critical. It’s also vital to ensure they have the ability and know-how to rapidly address disinformation that’s not only eroding the public’s trust in our public health agencies, but is also causing people to take actions that are adverse to their own health and well-being.”

“This is a compelling idea and we are excited to see it included in this legislation. There is a growing need for evidence-based solutions rooted in science to counter the challenges we are realizing day-to-day in the fight against pandemics and emerging public health issues, and this would be a great step for HHS,” said Day One Project Director Joshua Schoop of the Federation of American Scientists.

“One of the biggest vulnerabilities in the pandemic has been the impact of health misinformation on lives and livelihoods. Our ability to counter health misinformation is as important as developing new health technologies,” said Saad Omer, Director of the Yale Institute for Global Health.



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