Submit a Manuscript to the Journal

Journal of Health Communication

For a Special Issue on

Advancing Quality Health Information — What Works and What To Do?

Manuscript deadline
12 January 2024

Cover image - Journal of Health Communication

Special Issue Editor(s)

Dr. Caroline Orr Bueno, University of Maryland
[email protected]

Dr. Scott C. Ratzan, CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy
[email protected]

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Advancing Quality Health Information — What Works and What To Do?

In recent years, the spread of health-related misinformation has become an increasing concern for public health professionals. Recent survey data indicate that exposure to misinformation about health-related topics is ubiquitous among the American public, and large swaths of the population are unable to confidently discern fact from fiction. Inaccurate, deceptive, and patently false information about health and disease creates confusion for the public, sows mistrust in health professionals and medical institutions, and may prevent people from getting the care they need or lead them to make harmful choices such as foregoing evidence-based treatments in favor of unproven alternatives. Misinformation also has the potential to impede the suppression of disease outbreaks such as the COVID-19 pandemic, and to undo much of the progress that has been made in disease prevention and health promotion over the past several decades.

For health communication professionals, the proliferation of misinformation presents a variety of challenges, including how to communicate uncertainty around public health information while maintaining public trust, how to help people make better health-related decisions through informed sensemaking processes, how to harness new technologies without increasing the digital divide, and how to confront misinformation in ways that do not suppress or disrupt the free flow of information. We must also contend with the threat of disinformation — that is, the intentional creation or dissemination of false or misleading content, and/or the deliberate use of deceptive tactics such as search engine manipulation — whether from foreign governments or those looking to profit off fake cures and false promises. Ultimately, we see our primary challenge as determining how to best advance high-quality health-related information in an increasingly complex and, at times, adversarial information environment characterized by low levels of trust, rising polarization, and the invisible yet potent influence of algorithms in shaping our access to health information.

A problem of this magnitude calls for innovative and bold solutions. Rather than simply countering false information, we must develop compelling fact-based narratives and multimedia content that meet people where they are, whether that’s social media, blogging websites, newspapers, podcasts, or elsewhere. Furthermore, given the scale of the problem and its consequences, we should be looking more towards community-, institutional-, and societal-level changes, rather than focusing on individual information behaviors. As professionals, we can set the right tone by fostering new multidisciplinary research centers and collaborations that foster dialogue, problem-solving, and policymaking by bringing together representatives from the public and private sectors, bridging ideological and political divides, and enabling members of the public to be part of the solution.

With that in mind, this special issue of the Journal of Health Communication seeks to lay the groundwork for a bold new research agenda that will take on the challenge of misinformation by bringing together a collection of articles reflecting a variety of perspectives on how to best advance quality health information in an environment polluted by falsehoods and deception. We are seeking research, including but not limited to including perspectives, empirical articles, reviews, theoretical contributions, that represents a diversity of viewpoints, disciplines, and methods, and we encourage articles that put forth novel ideas, challenge common assumptions, and demonstrate excellence in multidisciplinary research. While there is a large body of important literature devoted to characterizing and defining the problem of misinformation, we believe the time has come to ask, “what’s next?” As such, this special issue aims to advance the state of knowledge by taking a solutions-focused approach to misinformation.

Dr. Caroline Orr is a postdoctoral research associate at ARLIS focusing on cognitive security and mis/dis/malinformation related to COVID-19, vaccination and the pandemic. Dr.

Orr earned her Ph.D. in Social and Behavioral Sciences from Virginia Commonwealth University, where, Dr. Orr and her colleagues won the International ABERJE Top Paper Award in 2016 for their research investigating vaccine-related misinformation on social media. Along with her colleagues, Dr. Orr pioneered a new theory-based mixed-methods approach to studying misinformation on social media platforms and was among the first to develop a theory-based framework for classifying misinformation on image-based platforms. In 2019, Dr. Orr led the Election Integrity Reporting Project at Canada’s National Observer in the lead-up to the Canadian federal election. Her work on that project was the subject of a 2020 white paper, Digital Fractures: Disinformation, Democracy, and the Media, and is being used as a model for the study of disinformation in newsrooms.

Scott C. Ratzan,  Scott C. Ratzan, is the first Distinguished Lecturer at CUNY SPH bringing three decades of pioneering accomplishments domestically and globally in health communication, health literacy and strategic diplomacy. He is the founding Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Health Communication: International Perspectives. He was recently Senior Fellow at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at Harvard Kennedy School where he published “Guiding Principles for Multisector Engagement for Sustainable Health (MESH) He currently serves on the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine Board on Global Health, the RAND Health Advisory Board, and World Information Transfer, Inc. He has also served as Co-Chair of the UN Secretary General’s Innovation Working Group in support of Every Woman Every Child as Vice Chair of the Business Industry Advisory Council’s Health Committee to the OECD, on the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Well-Being and Mental Health. He was appointed to serve on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Board of Scientific Counselors for the Office of Infectious Disease. Scott has an M.D. from the University of Southern California, an M.P.A. from the Harvard Kennedy School, and an M.A. in Communication from Emerson College. His academic appointments include Adjunct Professor at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy, Tufts University School of Medicine, and George Washington University School of Public Health.

Submission Instructions

We seek contributions that address the broad theme of how to best advance quality health information, with a focus on what works and what to do. Articles should generally fit into one or more of the following four themes: 1) message design and testing; 2) proactive approaches to identifying and mitigating vulnerabilities in the information environment and among population subgroups; 3) harnessing technology for health promotion, and 4) advancing new health communication theories and research methods that address the rapidly evolving nature of misinformation.

Specific areas include:

  • mitigating harmful impacts of misinformation on health
  • testing existing health communication theories & considering new theoretical approaches to inform the design of health messaging aimed at confronting misinformation
  • using theory to inform the design of messages and multimedia content
  • approaches to rebuilding & maintaining trust in public health professionals & institutions
  • effectively communicating uncertainty during public health crises
  • addressing viral misinformation with targeted counter-messaging
  • mass media & social media campaigns
  • harnessing emerging communication technologies
  • reaching non-English speaking communities targeted by health misinformation
  • harnessing opinion leaders and influencers to reinforce positive social norms around information-sharing
  • avoiding communication-based health crises
  • developing resilience to misinformation among vulnerable populations
  • proactively identifying & addressing information voids
  • testing innovative technology & online tools to empower journalists, healthcare providers, educators, the general public
  • topics broadly related to message design, testing, early identification of vulnerabilities and prevention/mitigation of harms.

Questions: [email protected]

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