Fight Like a Nerdy Girl: The Dear Pandemic Playbook for Combating Health Misinformation

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Raging alongside the COVID-19 pandemic, a parallel “infodemic” – an overwhelming swirl of information, both good and bad – has seriously compromised pandemic response. Medical falsehood is not a new problem; in the words of medical sociologist Nikolas Christakis, “everywhere you see the spread of germs, for the last few thousand years, you see right behind it the spread of lies.” But its ability to scale thanks to modern digital platforms represents a new and greatly intensified threat. Indeed, the impact of harmful information during the pandemic has been so profound that premier scientific leaders including the Director-General of the World Health Organization and the U.S. Surgeon General have issued urgent calls for the health sector workforce to proactively fight back. Like many other scientists, our all-woman team of “Nerdy Girls” took seriously this call. In March 2020 we launched a public education campaign on social media to do our part to fight the infodemic. Over 18 months and more than two thousand Facebook posts later, we have refined a set of core communication principles and named them with the mnemonic LET’S LEARN. We anticipate that these principles will feel intuitively familiar to health promotion professionals. Formalizing them into a framework provides shared language with which we can support each other as we navigate the new professional frontier of infodemic management.