Thinking critically about health information*

Anyone can post anything online. It’s up to the readers to think critically about information to decide if it seems helpful, truthful, or safe.

Here are seven key points to keep in mind as you determine which information is worth considering and which information doesn’t pass the test.

1. Find the original source of the information, if you can

It’s so easy to spread information online, and we can’t assume that the source we’re reading or watching is the original source. Before you can evaluate anything, you need to know where the claims come from and determine if it’s a reliable source.

Reliable sources on COVID-19 include the World Health Organization (WHO), Government of Canada and agencies like Health Canada , and the Government of New Brunswick. Scientists and researchers at universities and other institutions as well as health sciences professionals are also important sources of information.

Read the entire story or post before you make any decisions

Headlines and titles need to be simple and short, so they can sometimes be misleading on their own. They may also be purposefully shocking or controversial to entice you to click to read more.

Look at the author

Websites that belong to governments, government-funded agencies, well-known health providers, universities, or groups of medical professionals are generally the most reliable. Be careful of sites that don’t list the author or don’t tell you much about themselves. Double-check the author and the credentials of any ‘experts’ quoted or cited to see if they are actually experts in the topic being discussed.

See what other sources say

Can you find other evidence from other sources to support the claims? Does the author list their sources—and are the sources legitimate, like research journals?

Be mindful of emotions

Unhelpful sources want you to feel a certain way: scared, angry, distrustful, vulnerable. Phrases like “Skyrocketing rates of infection” are sensational and they’re meant to make people feel afraid. On the other hand, factual statements like “We have 50 new cases in NB” give you important information without playing into your emotions. Helpful news or information sources want you feel informed and empowered.

Ask yourself who benefits from sharing the information

Who is paying for the site? What products or services are being advertised? What links or other sites do they promote? Are you learning something from a story or experience, or are you simply being directed to buy a product or service?

A word on social media

Social media can be a great way to keep in touch with family and friends, especially as we practice social distancing or self-isolation. Social media can also be an important way to learn from health experts and connect to support services and mutual aid groups in your community.

Like any other source of information, it’s important to use good critical thinking skills when you use social media. Studies find that searching for health information on social media generally has very mixed results. You’ll see both very poor-quality sources next to good-quality sources, and it’s up to you to decide which is which. In addition, social media posts tend to be short and rarely capture everything you need to consider. They are generally useful as a way to start learning or exploring different points of view rather than a place to gather all information.

* Adapted from the Canadian Mental Health Association – BC Division

Sources of Reliable Information

Articles & Publications by Topic

NB Vaccine MandateDeadline approaching for thousands of Gov’t employees to get first shotCBC News
NB Vaccine Mandate – non complianceInterview with Labour Lawyer about non complianceCBC News
Human Rights Best PracticesCOVID 19 & HUMAN RIGHTS – BEST PRACTICESHuman Rights Commission Newfoundland & Labrador
Vaccination Policies – FAQsNB HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION FAQs VACCINATION POLICIESNew Brunswick Human Rights Commission
Vaccination ExemptionsNBHRC – Are exemptions from vaccinations protected under the Human Rights Act?New Brunswick Human Rights Commission
Vaccine Myths dispelledCBC – Busting Myths about VaccinationCBC News
Vaccines & Nuremburg CodeCOVID-19 vaccines do not violate the Nuremberg CodeCTV News
Vaccine mandates and proof of vaccineOHRC policy statement on COVID-19 vaccine mandates and proof of vaccine certificatesOntario Human Rights Commission
Creed-Based Discrimination Preventing Discrimination Based on CreedOntario Human Rights Commission
Vaccine SafetyStill worried about getting a vaccine for COVID-19? CBC News
Charter of Rights & FreedomsThe Charter of Rights and Freedoms vs. vaccine mandatesCBC News
Charter RightsResults of court challenge brought by seven churchesCBC News