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Current Projects

Addressing Health-Related Misinformation and Disinformation

Health-related misinformation and disinformation represent significant and growing threats to public health emergency preparedness and response (PHEPR) efforts. Misleading or false information has spread during past public health emergencies, and the same or similar rumors likely will circulate during future emergencies. Misinformation often promotes narratives that can hinder effective responses to public health events and erode public trust in health authorities.

New research efforts and innovations are needed to anticipate and proactively address misinformation and disinformation during public health events, establish practical communication solutions, build trust in public health, and ultimately advance the science of risk communication and infodemiology.

The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security works to address health-related misinformation and disinformation by conducting research, identifying best practices, educating public health practitioners and policymakers, and furthering policy solutions to the problem.

In July 2024, the Center for Health Security launched the Tackling Rumors and Understanding & Strengthening Trust (TRUST) in Public Health website. It supports practitioners with cultivating trust in public health when misleading rumors and misinformation are spreading. 

Visit the TRUST In Public Health website

The project team conducted an evidence-informed project to help build trust in public health in an environment of misinformation, particularly during public health emergencies. This project aimed to:

  • Understand the types of health-related rumors and misinformation that have come up during past public health emergencies.
  • Identify the tools, interventions, and approaches people have used to manage and counter misinformation.
  • Learn from the experiences of public health practitioners and risk communication experts.
  • Establish an evidence-based framework for predicting future misinformation, managing or countering misinformation, and building trust in public health.
  • Create a practitioner-validated checklist to help public health communicators strengthen trust in PHEPR and communicate within an environment of misinformation.
  • Develop a website and online curriculum with tools, resources, and guidance to help practitioners build trust in public health and proactively address misinformation during public health emergencies.

Past work conducted on misinformation and disinformation includes:

  • Development of the Practical playbook for addressing health misinformation, which takes a hands-on approach to help public health practitioners, medical professionals, and health communicators recognize and respond to health-related rumors and misinformation.
  • A pilot analysis exploring specific misinformation interventions to help policymakers and practitioners understand critical components of infodemic interventions.
  • An effort working to understand similarities and differences among US mainstream, US right-wing, and Russian news media, focusing on a rumor about Ukrainian bioweapon labs. 
  • Investigation of health-related misinformation in the context of public health emergencies by analyzing tweets about Ebola.
  • Analysis of tweets about masks and vaccines in the first 6 months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • A proposal for developing a national strategy to address misinformation and disinformation surrounding COVID-19 and future emergencies.
  • Economic analysis to outline the costs of misinformation related to non-vaccination.


Project Team

(listed in alphabetical order)

Lead: Tara Kirk Sell, PhD, MA

Center team: Vanessa Grégoire, MSc; Aishwarya Nagar, MPH; Hannah Ottman-Feeney; Christina Potter, MSPH; Alex Zhu, MSPH

Students: Amelia Jamison, MPH, MA; Emily O’Donnell-Pazderka, MA; Jessica Malaty Rivera, MS; Annie Sundelson, MSc

Past contributors: Richard Bruns, PhD; Arielle D’Souza; Courtney De Balmann; Erin Fink, MS; Johnross Ford, MS, MHS; Divya Hosangadi, MSPH; Noelle Huhn, MSPH; Sarah-Louise Pasquino; Maximillian Schwartz; Ellie Smith, MSPH; Marc Trotochaud, MSPH; Ruth Grace Wong


Project supported by:

  • US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • Johns Hopkins University Catalyst Award
  • National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM)
  • Open Philanthropy (past funding support)

Areas of Focus:

  • Medical and Public Health Preparedness and Response
  • Emerging Infectious Diseases and Epidemics
  • Deliberate Biological Threats

Resources and Publications


Peer-reviewed Publication