Finding a role for Wellcome in the movement for a healthier internet

The Challenge

Deep fakes. Fake news. Misinformation. Disinformation. Echo chambers. Filter bubbles. Trolls and bots. These are growing phenomena. The issue of misinformation and its role in politics and international affairs has been well documented, but what about health information? As false news is 70 per cent more likely than verified news to receive a retweet, the spread of health misinformation on social media could be having an impact on the decisions people make about how to keep themselves and their families healthy.

Our solution

Developed an overarching framework that shifts the narrative of health misinformation towards positive terms – a “healthier internet”, and identifies six opportunity areas for Wellcome to play a role in this emerging field.

What we did

“Finding ways that help the public play their own role in Wellcome’s mission to improve health is core to our work in Public Engagement. We want to empower more people to feel able to access, challenge and respond to health research. To do that, we need clearer understanding of how people use and share health information, and understand their experience of health and science. We’re excited about this collaboration with Shift because of its potential to provide evidence and real insight into a complex issue.”

Farrah Nazir, Acting Creative & Partnerships Lead, Wellcome

  • Ethnographic research into health information on social media from the point of view of parents, using parents with young children who are making a decision on whether or not to vaccinate their children as a case study.
  • Rapid mapping of the current landscape of initiatives tackling health misinformation on social media and improving the online environment for health information generally, with a focus on vaccine uptake, undertaken using desk research and expert interviews.
  • Built up rich maps showing what was being done by big players, like WHO, innovative or local players, plus activities happening in parallel topic areas such as counter terrorism and climate change.
  • Interrogated gaps, and using an understanding of Wellcome’s assets, identified specific roles that Wellcome could play.

Stats and facts

  • Deep dive into the social media world of 20 parents, looking at what kinds of health information parents see and share on the platforms they use most frequently, including Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp.
  • 1700+ posts, 1000+ screenshots of social media posts, plus parent reflection captured in digital diaries.
  • 10 immersive interviews exploring more deeply how parents evaluate information truthfulness and accuracy and why they share health information with others.
  • Opportunity identification workshop with 25 participants including journalists, health psychologists, tech start-ups and science communicators
  • 5 big opportunity spaces for improving the utility and spread of high quality health information on social media
  • 50+ projects happening around the world to make the internet a healthier platform for health information were identification and mapped, grouped by type of organisation, what they are doing (including communicating, catalysing and co-ordinating) and where they are based.
  • Examples range from global communication campaigns run by international health organisations, to digital literacy games developed by start-ups, to new algorithms by technology companies.
  • 80+ initiatives around the world featured on an infographic website






Dr Tom Stafford, Health Psychologist at Sheffield University

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