By JOHNNY LEE WILLIAMS, MD and CAMILLE SIMMONS
Minority communities in America must remain mindful and vigilant as we as a nation emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. This mindfulness is critical when browsing the web for information about COVID-19. Old North State Medical Foundation, based in Eastern North Carolina, encourages everyone to take the TruthCheck Training to gain the skills necessary to fact-check information found on social media.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, the Old North State Medical Foundation has been assisting the community by holding free COVID-19 testing locations, food giveaways and vaccination events.
With unemployment at unprecedented levels for minority communities and the scarcity of items available in grocery stores early in the Pandemic, we saw a need, and we filled it. We held multiple free food giveaways, including fresh fruits and vegetables and milk and dairy products. In addition, we have served over 500,000 families in our organization’s coverage area that serves residents of rural eastern North Carolina east of I-95. We held even more drive-thru COVID-19 testing and vaccination events in the heart of the communities we served when COVID-19 tests and vaccinations were scarce. Our mission was to be sure the small minority communities we serve were receiving the necessary resources to beat this pandemic.
In the fall of 2021, we took on a new way to fight the COVID-19 pandemic through social media, avidly fighting misinformation and disinformation surrounding the Pandemic and the COVID-19 vaccination. Our mission was to give individuals in Eastern North Carolina the tools necessary to fact-check information found on social media utilizing the TruthCheck Training.
Minority communities struggle to trust information from official sources because of the country’s history of not being truthful with minorities about medical treatment. Nationally on average, minorities are less likely to be vaccinated against COVID-19. In collaboration with low vaccination numbers, minorities have average higher COVID-19 mortality rates nationally. Many factors contribute to this, but it was our mission to ensure misinformation and disinformation on social media would no longer be a significant contributing factor for the area we serve. Minorities are overwhelmed daily by false claims, “fake news” and hoaxes surrounding COVID-19. Unfortunately, many people do not realize how quickly sharing information you have not verified for yourself can spread misinformation out of control. The TruthCheck Training gives participants the tools to protect their social media accounts from widespread misinformation.
The TruthCheck Training gives its participants the tools to be media literate and discern misinformation & disinformation found on social media. The training walks participants through an in-depth interactive presentation that informs them how to read past headlines and “clickbait” and empower themselves with facts. In addition, the course prepares participants to TruthCheck their timelines and avoid spreading or believing misinformation on social media.
The training covers topics such as media literacy, including crucial issues to consider, such as who created the post and how different audiences might interpret and act upon the message. After ensuring participants are media literate, the training details several steps that must be taken to verify information on social media, including click restraint, lateral reading, reading upstream, reverse image searches, reading beyond headlines and more tools to “give media the side-eye” as the training states.
We encourage everybody, no matter how comfortable they are with social media, to take the TruthCheck Training. As we enter Minority Health Awareness month, minority communities need to arm themselves with the tool of truth, the most powerful tool of all. For more information or to take the free TruthCheck Training, visit truthcheck.org. Until we have successfully navigated our way through the COVID-19 pandemic, Old North State Medical Foundation will be here to provide resources and support to rural East Carolinians.
Dr. Johnny Lee Williams, MD is president of Old North State Medical Foundation Inc. Camille Simmons is Youth Advocate Consultant/TruthCheck Influencer at Old North State Medical Foundation Inc.