Viewpoint: 3 things practitioners need for social media collabs in era of 'techno public health'

The COVID-19 pandemic has drawn widespread attention to the impact of social media on health, inspiring public health officials and tech platforms to rethink strategies for combating misinformation, according to Brian Castrucci, DrPH, and Frank Luntz. 

In a Nov. 18 op-ed for CNBC, Dr. Castrucci, an epidemiologist and president and CEO of the de Beaumont Foundation, and Frank Luntz, a Republican pollster and communication advisor, highlighted the need for urgency in addressing health misinformation on social media platforms, which many Americans have turned to during the pandemic to make decisions about vaccinations, masking and social distancing. 

"In the real world, there are rules and regulations in place to protect the public," Dr. Castrucci and Mr. Luntz wrote. "From food and product safety to air and water quality measures, Americans expect some level of common-sense protection from known harm for the things we use and consume daily. Why should a virtual world be any different?"

The pair offered three recommendations for public health practitioners and social media collaboration amid this new era of "techno public health." 

1. Public health practitioners and social media companies should craft partnerships to create and implement verified public health principles and protocols for the digital world. 

2. Congress should institute a "digital world" safety office at the CDC to monitor the rate of misinformation and deliberate disinformation on social media platforms. This division would also support research for the effects of social media and misinformation on public health outcomes. 

3. State and local government public health agencies should develop roles for digital health community workers, who could serve as trusted public health educators and influencers in digital spaces. Agencies can start creating these roles by using the American Rescue Plan Act resources. 

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