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T2P37 – Misinformation & Black Health

Updated: Feb 1, 2022

Monday Motivation! I really do find the comfort in some routines, such as simply starting with ‘Monday Motivation’ really does mark for me the time to write, it’s not always easy to get in that writing frame of mind. So the plans to return to offices in the UK are ramping up and as ever, it appears that Civil Servants have become soft targets for not dropping everything and returning immediately. Nadal won the Australian Open, now overtaking Federer and Djokovic in the number of grand slams held, Nadal leading them on 21 to their 20 each. A tournament which Djokovic was tipped for due to the hard court it is played on and he remains in the news over controversy about the alleged timings of his positive COVID status. COVID, whilst beginning to take a back burner in the UK and parts of Europe it continues to be divisive in America. Due to Joe Rogan’s ‘contrarian’ views on COVID, artists Neil Young and Joni Mitchell pulled their music to disassociate.

Misinformation is nothing new, it’s been one of the buzzwords since the COVID outbreak. Misinformation is defined as false information that is spread, regardless of intent to mislead. Social media has become a major outlet in the spreading of misinformation, you’d have likely noticed that on WhatsApp that when sharing ‘forwarded many times.’ On Instagram, they’ve had to impose fact checkers to COVID related posts, these were implemented by social media companies to tackle fake news. Since people have just been saying anything, with the source tending to be a friend of a friend of another friend. There was the high-profile incident last year with Nicki Minaj about the vaccine causing someone impotency. A lot of the posts that I see which appear to be misinformed tend to snip an excerpt of data remove or distort the context. It generates engagement and rage, most people are on social media for condensed news so it’s easy to share and be enraged without drilling down into what’s being claimed. Personally, I only drill into a few of some of the claims as they appear so outrageously wild my curiosity must find out just how they made the claim. Before you RT an article on Twitter, do you read it?

With all this misinformation spreading coupled with the speed of the vaccine production it is understandable that there is vaccine hesitancy. Even though I’m vaccinated for COVID, this blog isn’t to advocate for it but to uncover more about general health hesitancy especially within the black communities. The UK have been one of the leading nations in their rollout of the vaccine, the uptake within BAME communities is not so fast, the proportion unvaccinated is roughly twice as high in south Asian people and four times as high in Black people – Dr Raghib Ali (December 2021). This comes despite data signalling their were higher death rates seen in BAME communities. Whilst the Nicki Minaj incident remains amusing, it still served as another form of misinformation which may have altered a potentially vulnerable person’s decision to take the vaccine. The other reason for the low uptake is the lack of trust in the healthcare system, the MBRRACE report confirmed that black women are 4 x at a higher risk than white women. Inequitable treatment and unconscious bias were cited as some of the reasons for this.

With the low confidence it is easy to see why black communities are dubious of speaking or trusting the work of healthcare professionals. I can’t offer a solution in tackling that issue, but I do know the answer is not ‘WhatsApp University’ where healthcare advice is being provided solely from mass shared videos. Second opinions can always be sought if you don’t agree with assessments made, but UK healthcare is not utilised enough in our community. Simple things such as the arrangement of a physiotherapist for niggling injuries aren’t being considered. Even the advice of GP, just last week they sorted physio and my eczema for me, it turns out they know much more than me! I was still registered at my university GP over 100 miles away in 2020, and I know that’s the case for plenty of others too, so get down to your local GP and complete a quick registration.

Ignorance can be bliss but doing it with your health is not worth it. Even if you think you’re healthy, what’s the harm of a quick check in then. Even with sexual health BAME communities are much lower in their testing, despite appearing to be disproportionality affected. The new normal allows for remote testing, so that should serve as a reason to be responsible too. Following my blood donation last year, I was informed that I have a sickle cell trait, and whilst that’s not impacted my health, it’s useful to know when I do begin thinking about kids down the line. (Great first date questions; what’s your star sign? What’s your favourite food? What’s your blood type?!). Something else we have to be conscious of in the black community, so stay informed, health is wealth!

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