Let’s face it, COVID-19 has snatched something or another from all of us. But, it’s also done something pretty important: it’s brought the focus and attention to our public health systems. It has also exposed the relationship between said system and our society especially, when it comes to doing the right thing with access to health-related information. This is where health literacy comes in.

Health literacy isn’t just about being up to date with case numbers and what’s going on in the news. It’s not even about knowing a bunch of scientific terminology, which you might not even fully understand. It’s not about dictating what other people should be doing to protect themselves or things that they shouldn’t be doing. Health literacy is much more than all of this.

Health literacy means taking the time to educate one’s self about making informed decisions to protect ones health. With a large outbreak, such as the one we are currently facing or as was the case with other viruses in recent history, being able to read up about precautionary measures is essential. We need to protect ourselves before we can worry about enforcing rules to protect others. This is analogous to a plane procedure they go through with passengers about putting your mask on yourself before helping anyone next to you. We are part of the problem if we can’t even keep ourselves safe. It is important to understand this.

You should also keep in mind that anecdotal evidence is not really a good indication of what will or will not work for you. For example, individuals that oppose vaccines have claims that are largely anecdotal. If you ask a group of these people about some of the sources they have consulted, you would be intrigued to discover that these sources are not all that credible and are heavily reliant on anecdotes. Or while they may credible, they might not be upholding the right practice of academia. This is a whole other issue that I don’t have the time to delve into.

Largely, misinformation contributes to a weakened public health response. Misinformation contributes to panic and flashy headlines in online sources. Misinformation is dangerous and we as a society need to do more to help stop its spread as well.

Now, I’m not saying you need a Bachelors in science to understand science related information that is available in our digital age. All I’m trying to say is that with health literacy, you just need common sense and the willingness to consult a wide variety of sources before coming to any brute decision. And with the whole world at our fingertips, I don’t think this should be much of a problem. Start to actively take steps to fight misinformation and develop a strong sense of health literacy with you and your loved ones. Make sure you know how to keep yourself safe during this pandemic and attempt to do it for the right reasons.

To that end, please wear a mask, wash your hands and stay socially distant. We can all do our part to keep ourselves and everyone around us safe.

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