WASHINGTON–U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), both members of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, on Wednesday introduced legislation to counter the threat that misinformation and disinformation pose to public health as evidenced by the widespread false narratives throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The Promoting Public Health Information Act would support efforts across the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and with outside stakeholders to communicate effectively during a public health emergency and address health misinformation.

The Promoting Public Health Information Act would authorize the HHS Secretary to:

  • Establish the Public Health Information and Communications Advisory Committee within HHS to include federal officials and others with expertise in public health, medicine, communications, and national security. The Advisory Committee would make recommendations on effective ways to communicate scientific and medical information and understand the impact of misinformation during a public health emergency.
  • Issue awards to develop evidenced-based initiatives to educate the public and promote fact-based public health and medical science.
  • Spend $45 million for purposes related to the educational initiative and Advisory Committee.

“Throughout this pandemic, the impact of misinformation has been devastating. Rumors and conspiracy theories about the efficacy of masking or the safety of vaccines still run rampant on social media and have caused thousands of deaths that could have been prevented. This legislation will help us get smart about how to tackle misinformation and effectively promote science-based health information, especially as we continue fighting COVID-19 and prepare for future public health emergencies,” said Murphy.

“We cannot allow public health misinformation about COVID-19 – or any future public health emergencies – to run amok,” said Luján. “I’m proud of the commonsense steps this legislation takes to equip HHS with resources to keep the American people informed on public health matters. The pandemic has shown that clear and accessible communication from health officials can save lives. I’m proud to have worked with Senator Murphy on this legislation to establish the Public Health Information and Communications Advisory Committee within HHS, which will work to keep all our communities healthy and informed.”

“One of the biggest vulnerabilities in the pandemic has been the impact of health misinformation on lives and livelihoods. Our ability to counter health misinformation is as important as developing new health technologies,” said Saad Omer, Director of the Yale Institute for Global Health.

"This is a compelling idea and we are excited to see it included in this legislation. There is a growing need for evidence-based solutions rooted in science to counter the challenges we are realizing day-to-day in the fight against Covid, and this would be a great step for HHS,” said Day One Project Director Joshua Schoop of the Federation of American Scientists.