Coronavirus (1068) Managing the COVID-19 vaccine infodemic (5)

9 November, 2020

Neil comments that "It's interesting that Richard Horton doesn't even mention health literacy, but instead focuses on five elements that can be broadly called 'supply-side' interventions." In fact the five elements he mentions are quoted from The Misinformation Age, a 2019 book by Cailin O'Connor and James Owen Weatherall. Richard Horton has written extensively on health literacy elsewhere (inclding in his recent book The COVID-19 Catastrophe).

While agreeing with Neil that the supply side of the equation needs attantion, it should not be at the cost of supporting efforts to develop health literacy in the polulation [*I agree - see note from NPW below]. Jonathan Barry of the UK National Health Service sets the case economically ( After defining health literacy, he asks, Does it really matter? and provides the answer: “The short answer is yes, because recent research in England tells us that between 43% and 61% of English working age adults routinely do not understand health information. This also has a financial cost – 3% to 5% of the annual UK health budget.” He concludes that poor health literacy “is disempowering as well.”

Let's work to strengthen the supply of strong health information, as well as people's ability to understand it.


Chris Zielinski

Blogs: and

Research publications:

HIFA profile: Chris Zielinski: As a Visiting Fellow in the Centre for Global Health, Chris leads the Partnerships in Health Information (Phi) programme at the University of Winchester. Formerly an NGO, Phi supports knowledge development and brokers healthcare information exchanges of all kinds. Chris has held senior positions in publishing and knowledge management with WHO in Brazzaville, Geneva, Cairo and New Delhi, with FAO in Rome, ILO in Geneva, and UNIDO in Vienna. Chris also spent three years in London as Chief Executive of the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society. He was the founder of the ExtraMED project (Third World biomedical journals on CD-ROM), and managed the Gates Foundation-supported Health Information Resource Centres project. He served on WHO’s Ethical Review Committee, and was an originator of the African Health Observatory. Chris has been a director of the World Association of Medical Editors, UK Copyright Licensing Agency, Educational Recording Agency, and International Association of Audiovisual Writers and Directors. He has served on the boards of several NGOs and ethics groupings (information and computer ethics and bioethics). UK-based, he is also building houses in Zambia. chris AT

His publications are at and and his blogs are and

[Note from HIFA moderator (Neil PW): I agree, building health literacy is important and no-one is suggesting it should be decreased. As I wrote in my original message: 'Building individual health literacy remains important as a long-term measure, but there is no way that health literacy can be increased in a few months or years (or even decades) to a level that will meaningfully protect the majority of the population from misinformation. People should be looking at Richard Horton's five elements (and more).']