U of Chicago launches course aimed at addressing healthcare misinformation

A new course at the University of Chicago helps future healthcare workers prepare to engage with medical misinformation, according to a Sept. 8 report from University of Chicago Medicine.

The virtual course was first held in August and is open to advanced medical, pharmacy and nursing students. 

According to research from MIT, false information spreads wider and faster than factual information because more than 72 percent of the public uses some type of social media. Vineet Arora, MD, teaches the new course at the University of Chicago and says that rumors run rampant during a global health crisis like COVID-19, which causes people to unintentionally follow incorrect information.  

"Misinformation is unfortunately like a cancer that spreads out of control very quickly when left unchecked. Our healthcare team members need formal training on how best to debunk medical myths, just like they need training on how best to diagnose and treat disease," said Dr. Arora. 

The course focuses on the healthcare professional-patient relationship, and each session includes a lecture and workshop to engage students in exercises to identify misinformation. Additionally, students are encouraged to collaborate on communication strategies to reach diverse populations. 

Sara Serritella, Institute for Translational Medicine director of communications, said that the skills taught in the course can save lives. 

"Students walk out of this course with very specific, concrete tools that are directly applicable to their careers and promoting public health," Ms. Serritella said.

The new course benefitted from a $35,000 grant from the Association of American Medical Colleges' Kickstarting Strategies for Addressing Health Misinformation initiative.

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