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Find Reliable Health Information

A resource from the San Diego Circuit libraries

Can I Trust the Information?

Health Misinformation is a Problem

Health misinformation is false, inaccurate, or misleading information according to the best available evidence at the time. 


Misinformation is false, inaccurate, or misleading information


Health misinformation can spread quickly through online communities because:

  • People like to share information they feel others do not know yet. 

  • People try to protect others by sharing what they see as helpful health information. 

  • People may share health information to feel connected with others, make sense of events, or solve health problems.

Why is health misinformation a problem? The spread of health misinformation can have severe consequences on communities and individuals. Misinformation can lead to confusion and misunderstandings. For example, people could refuse potentially life-saving medical treatments or take supplements that may be harmful due to health misinformation. Get more information in this report by the Surgeon General. 

We can take action to stop the spread of health misinformation. Keep reading for tips on evaluating health information and managing health misinformation if you come across it. 

(This information is based on A Community Toolkit for Addressing Health Misinformation by the Office of the Surgeon General.)

Check if Health Information is Reliable

Check the source, funding, evidence, and emotional tone of health information.


Take a moment and consider these questions before sharing health information with your friends and family. 

  • Source: Who is providing the information?
    If it is an organization, what can you learn about them by reviewing the “About” section of the website and by doing a web search on the organization? If it is an “expert,” do they have expertise in the topic? Is their contact information easy to find? 

  • Funding: Where does the funding come from?
    It costs money to create a webpage and maintain up-to-date content. You may find clues in the “About” section and by doing a web search on the author or organization. Are they selling a product? If the site uses advertisements, do they clearly label them as paid promotions?

  • Evidence: Is there research supporting the claim?
    A single research study is often not enough, even if it’s well done! Check that the claim has support from multiple research studies completed and reviewed by specialists. Look for links to multiple research articles that support the health claim, or a reference section at the bottom of the page. Be skeptical of an “expert” backing a claim that seems too good to be true.  

  • Emotions: How did reading the claim make you feel?
    Do you feel angry, vindicated, or emotional? Health misinformation can prey on our emotions, fears, and uncertainties, which can sway our ability to think critically about new information.  

More tools to help you evaluate health information:

How to Respond to Health Misinformation

If you come across health information that you are not sure about, try this:

  • Use the evaluation questions above to explore the credibility of the information. 

  • Do a web search to check if other reputable sources confirm the health claim. Need help finding sources? Review the sources in this guide or visit a library in San Diego County.

  • Ask a health professional you trust – like your doctor or health provider – if they have information on the health claim.

  • Do not share information if you are not sure about it.

If you're not sure, don't share.


If you see friends or family members sharing health misinformation online, think about these tips from the Surgeon General:

  • Listen to their fears and beliefs without immediately trying to fact-check them or prove they’re wrong.

  • Empathize by showing you understand how difficult it can be to trust specific sources of information. Share your struggles with knowing what is true and false. Ask questions to understand their perspective.

  • Point to credible sources. Try to emphasize the importance of finding credible information sources without being judgmental. Explain how it can be hard to find accurate information, especially when you frequently hear about changes and new developments, like during a pandemic.  

  • Do not publicly shame. Address the person one-on-one when possible, either in person or through a direct message. A situation where someone feels embarrassed or called out publicly for having wrong information can backfire.

  • Use inclusive language where possible. Identify with the person, and show that you see yourself impacted by health misinformation. Use phrases that strengthen connection like “I understand” or “it’s so hard to know who to trust.”


If someone you know is sharing misinformation, listen, empathize, point to credible sources, do not shame, and be inclusive.


(This information is based on A Community Toolkit for Addressing Health Misinformation by the Office of the Surgeon General.)