In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing diseases to spread. Examples include measles, COVID, flu, and polio.
Lauren Sausser, Kaiser Health News notes that public health communication has improved since the start of the pandemic.
But some public health experts argue that agencies are still failing on messaging. Scientific terms such as “mRNA technology,” “bivalent vaccine” and “monoclonal antibodies” are used a lot in public health, even though many people find them difficult to understand.
A study published by JAMA found that Covid-related language used by state-level agencies was often more complex than an eighth-grade reading level and harder to understand than the language commonly used by the CDC.
“We have to communicate complex ideas to the public, and this is where we fail,” said Brian Castrucci, CEO of the de Beaumont Foundation, a charitable group focused on strengthening public health. “We have to own the fact that our communication missteps created the environment where disinformation flourished.”
Most Americans support public health, Castrucci said. At the same time, a small but vocal minority pushes an anti-science agenda, and it has been effective in sowing seeds of distrust, he said.
The more than 3,000 public health departments nationwide stand to benefit from a unified message, he said. In late 2020, the foundation, working with other public health groups, established the Public Health Communications Collaborative to amplify easy-to-understand information about vaccines.
“The good guys need to be just as well organized as those who seek to do harm to the nation,” he said. “One would think we would learn from this.”