December 5, 2023

Heena Patel, O’Neill Institute Director of Strategic Communications

Group Releases New Emerson Polling Data on Erosion of Trust in Government Health Information in the American Heartland

Washington, D.C. — A group of more than 40 U.S. and international health communication researchers and practitioners today announced that they had formed a Council for Quality Health Communication (CQHC) to help establish their profession as a leading advocate for practical solutions to a public loss of trust in health and science that stems in large part from the recent onslaught of health misinformation and disinformation.

CQHC is co-chaired by Lawrence Gostin, J.D., Georgetown University Distinguished University Professor, O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law faculty director, and director of the WHO Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law, and Scott C. Ratzan, M.D., founding Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Health Communication and director of the program for Health Communication and Social Change at the City University of New York Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy. 

“If we cannot redress the increasing loss of public trust in science generally, and the field of public health in particular, we risk squandering priceless and hard-won knowledge that has benefited people everywhere,” Professor Gostin said. “We are pleased to offer the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law as the initial host of the new Council.”    

Recent public opinion research has begun to uncover the extent and impact of loss of trust in science and health. 

“Over the last few months, studies from the Annenberg Public Policy Center and KFF have found that in the wake of the COVID pandemic, Americans are also less likely to vaccinate their children against diseases like measles, whooping cough and polio,” Dr. Ratzan, the CQHC co-chair stated.

“In new work done specifically for our Council, Emerson Polling found that among people in 22 states in the American heartland, more than half of the respondents from all 22 states rated the quality of health information they got from government health sources as poor or fair, with particularly low ratings of 70% or worse in Idaho, Arkansas, South Dakota, and Wyoming. This is the specific challenge that CQHC was organized to address” Dr Ratzan added.     

CQHC Objectives and Goals

CQHC’s main objectives are to advocate in the U.S. and internationally for policies that support and promote quality scientific and health communication in both the public and private sectors, and advance the highest standards of health information that conveys the best available knowledge in easily accessible, culturally appropriate, and understandable ways.

The Council’s specific goals are to:

  • Develop, endorse, and disseminate recommendations and practices that recognize and support quality health communications programs, including effective use of social media, in the public and private sectors;
  • Identify, highlight, and publish results of health communication research to help people better identify and understand the difference between accurate health information and health misinformation and disinformation;
  • Advocate for policies and programs that promote quality health communication to policymakers, healthcare providers, journalists, civic and religious leaders, social media communities and other public influencers; and
  • Stimulate meaningful public health dialogue on the benefits and risks of emergent communication technologies, including artificial intelligence. 

CQHC will work in close cooperation with another recently formed non-partisan, non-profit group, the Coalition for Trust in Health and Science, which consists of more than 90 U.S. organizations dedicated to advancing equitable access to accurate, understandable and relevant information for appropriate health choices. 

“Our groups will work in tandem to address this significant challenge to public health, medical and scientific research, and practice,” said Bill Novelli, founder of Business for Impact, Professor Emeritus at Georgetown University McDonough School of Business, and co-founder of Coalition on Trust in Health and Science, and a member of CQHC. “Coalition members will create and deliver a range of communication programs at the national and community level in the U.S. CQHC will publish and disseminate research on programs of this type in the U.S. and globally and will advocate for the health communication profession to policy makers at all levels. These are complementary missions, and both are needed and timely.”     

Other CQHC members come from a range of academic institutions including the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, the Baylor College of Medicine’s National School of Tropical Medicine, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the UCSF Institute for Health Policy Studies Health Communications Research Program; from NGOs such as KFF, HealthAI and the Christian Connection for International Health; and the WHO.  


About the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law

The O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, at Georgetown Law, was established to create innovative solutions to the most pressing national and international health concerns, with the essential vision that the law has been, and will remain, a fundamental tool for solving critical health problems.