Skip to main content

Health Misinformation and Social Media: A Potent Combination

Hero Image
Health Misinformation and Social Media: A Potent Combination
Date and Time
Pacific (PT)

Andrea received a WhatsApp audio message from her friend. It talked about a new, deadly virus with no cure and urged listeners to stock up on groceries and supplies. Wondering whether the message she received was true or not but very concerned about the urgency of the virus, Andrea shared it with several friends.  Like Andrea, many people share information, sometimes out of a strong emotional response, and often do not know its origin and whether it is true. This contributes to the spread of misinformation. Social media is a powerful tool that spreads information: some of it may be misleading and some of it may be accurate.  But how to tell the difference?

This panel brings together a health department representative, a social media expert, a clinician caring for migrant farmworkers and a community leader to discuss how misinformation easily spreads through communities and its impact health behavior, especially during a pandemic.  We will also share resources to help the community evaluate social media in order to know whether the information is likely to be true and if they should share the information.  We will also identify social platforms that may be useful for health centers, clinicians and community health workers to inform hard to reach groups.

Watch the Webinar Recording


Profile picture for user Gayle Thomas




Chair Emeritus

North Carolina Farmworker Health Program

Dr. Gayle Thomas serves as the medical director of the North Carolina Farmworker Health Program, a statewide voucher program supporting outreach workers to migrant and seasonal farmworkers. She also is an assistant professor of Family Medicine at the University of North Carolina, and enjoys bringing medical students and residents with her to care for farmworkers on a mobile medical van in Benson, NC. Prior to this position, she worked as a family physician for 23 years at the Carrboro Community Health Center with primarily Spanish speaking patients. She grew up in Napa, California and did her medical training in Los Angeles. She was born in Tandala, Democratic Republic of Congo to missionary teachers.

Federico Subervi-Vélez

Dr. Federico Subervi-Vélez, originally from Puerto Rico, is a media and communications expert with a focus on Latinos in the United States. Dr. Subervi-Vélez is an Honorary Associate/Fellow of the Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he obtained his doctorate in journalism and communication. He is the co-author of the newly published The News Media in Puerto Rico: Journalism in Colonial Settings and Times of Crises and editor of The Mass Media and Latino Politics. Studies of U.S. Media Content, Campaign Strategies and Survey Research: 1984-2004.  From his residence in Austin, Texas, he continues his academic work collaborating with professors and colleagues on projects on communication issues in Puerto Rico.

Habacuc Petion

Mr. Petion serves as a volunteer in the Wicomico and Salisbury Covid-19 Vulnerable Task Force. He is an advocate for immigrant workers in the Salisbury, Maryland community. He aims to help restore social integration of disadvantaged people through basic education, social services, and community outreach.  Mr. Petion is deeply involved in COVID-19 response in his community as he serves as an interpreter at testing sites and assists with contact tracing.

Heather Kathrens

Heather Kathrens is a licensed clinical social worker who has worked extensively with diverse populations, including refugees and survivors of torture and trauma.  Ms. Kathrens implemented a volunteer program in 2007, linking community members with newly resettled refugees in Tampa Bay; and went on to manage programs for the Florida Center for Survivors of Torture and Refugee Youth and Family Program. She has served in the Peace Corps.  Since 2014, she has provided direct mental health services to refugees, other humanitarian immigrants, and US born clients who have been impacted by trauma, torture and loss.  Ms. Kathrens currently serves as the Refugee Mental Health Coordinator, situated in the Maryland Department of Health’s Center for Global Migration and Immigrant Health.

Webinar Series