New Podcast Series to Confront COVID-19 DisinformationThe George Washington University’s popular public health podcast is taking aim at COVID-19 disinformation with a four-part series that explores the causes, impacts and solutions of this growing problem. The first episode of “Healthy You: Confronting our Disease of Disinformation,” will be released on April 6 in coordination with National Public Health Week, with weekly episodes to follow.

The new series is part of “Healthy You,” a podcast hosted by the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health and GW School of Media and Public Affairs in partnership with the American Public Health Association and the de Beaumont Foundation. Since mid-2020, the groups have partnered on “Healthy You, Surviving a Pandemic,” a podcast series focused on life during the COVID-19 pandemic.

”Healthy You” is hosted by award-winning journalist Frank Sesno, Director of Strategic Initiatives at the GW School of Media and Public Affairs. Sesno will talk to health and media experts about the impact of deliberate disinformation and how to prepare for a future that includes a new variant of COVID-19 and/or other infectious diseases.

“As we enter the third year of the pandemic, mis-and disinformation continues to instil fear, cause confusion and divide people,” Sesno said. “We felt that it was important to create a series that tackles the harms that come from misinformation and examine how people and organizations that engage in this activity can be held accountable, as well as look for solutions to this crisis.”

Guests on the four-part series include Rebekah Tromble, Director of the GW Institute for Data, Democracy, and Politics; Lynn R. Goldman, Dean of the GW Milken Institute School of Public Health; Georges C. Benjamin, MD, Executive Director of the American Public Health Association and other well-known experts on disinformation.

“Mis- and disinformation are a daily challenge for public health,” Benjamin said. “It has a negative impact on the health of both individuals and the community. It is hard for people to make good decisions that improve or protect their health when bad information is so prevalent. Mis- and disinformation is a significant public health threat that is intentionally designed to undermine the public’s trust in institutions and acceptance of expert advice. Addressing it is now a high priority in order to improve the public‘s health.”

 The four-part series will address:

  • EPISODE I – What is Pandemic Disinformation? This episode will outline the scope of the problem, with examples from social media, traditional media, doctors and politicians.
  • EPISODE II – Who’s Responsible? Politicians? Media? Docs? This episode will look at the responsibility born by those who peddle medical misinformation, including politicians, the media and doctors.
  • EPISODE III – What is the Impact of Disinformation? This episode will discuss the consequences of disinformation.
  • EPISODE IV– How do we make it right? Thinking ahead to next time. This episode will ask whether this is the new normal and explore remedies to combat disinformation.

The four-part series will provide a broad view of the crisis of mis/disinformation by talking to international experts in the field, including Imran Ahmed, the Founding CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate.

“There is a clear impetus now among the public, among lawmakers and among advertisers and other parts of society to take action on the growing proliferation of disinformation that has the potential to kill other human beings,” Ahmed says in Episode II of the series. “We have realized that there is this business model based on the spread of disinformation which is not just social media platforms, but it’s the people spreading it themselves who seek to make a profit out of it. It is lethal and it has to be stopped.”

Listen and subscribe to the new series, which launches April 6  and runs through April 27. And be sure to check out past episodes of the podcast “Healthy You” podcast by clicking here.

Edited by: Matthew Thomas