Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - After the recent COVID-19 pandemic, it was clear that Americans and others around the world were getting their health information from a variety of sources, some more trustworthy than others.

Recognizing this fact, University of Montana Associate Professor of Communications Studies, Heather Voorhees spoke to KGVO News about a new course she has introduced in the Department of Communication Studies entitled ‘Health Misinformation’.

UM Professor Teaching Class on 'Health Disinformation'

Professor Voorhees began by recalling how high emotions were running at the start of the pandemic, with everyone wondering ‘whom can you trust’ for accurate health information.

“As we saw during that pandemic, emotions were very heightened, and it was a very scary time and it was a very emotional time and people were worried for themselves and their family members,” began Professor Voorhees. “And so I just started thinking, you know, when you don't really know who to trust that compounds the scariness of the situation. And so when that happens then we all kind of leave ourselves open and vulnerable to all kinds of messages.”

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Professor Voorhees asks does the Information 'Pass the Smell Test'

Helping her students navigate through the morass of information from the internet down to the local news, Professor Voorhees asked ‘does this information pass the smell test’.

“What is the smell test?”, she asked. “I work really hard to give my students some tools and some criteria of when you hear a story when you see a social media post when someone you love and trust tells you something, what are some things that you can ask yourself to determine? Is this a trustworthy piece of information or not? And frankly, for my students, the first whole section of class the first month of class is spent learning about scientific research.”

Voorhees Acknowledged the Media's Effect on Health Disinformation

Voorhees acknowledged the many layers of information that were flowing in the media from the very beginning of the pandemic through to the end some three years later.

“It's always a little touchy to talk about who to trust and what's good information and what's bad information, right?” she asked. “Because it can be a very sensitive, very personal thing. It can be very political at times. So I was a little worried the first time that I offered this class ‘will I be seen as some crusader for the left wing or the right wing coming in and trying to tell people what to think?’ I'm having a great time and hopefully, they (the students) are learning a lot and it's kind of a two-way street in that regard.”

Read more about Professor Voorhees’ class here.

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