iHeard Program Combats Public Health Misinformation


iHeard St. Louis, a program of the Washington University in St. Louis Health Communication Research Laboratory, is working to combat the spread of public health information through their Trusted Messengers Initiative. 

Through a survey sent weekly to over 200 paid participants, iHeard gleans information from the public about their top public health concerns—from questions about COVID-19 to health risks associated with chemical hair products. Survey response rates hover at 80%. 

A team of student employees from the Sam Fox School of Art and Design use this information to develop a robust library of digital assets, which are shared weekly with Trusted Messenger organizations. These organizations then share the information on their own channels, reaching a wide audience. Current partners include the St. Louis Regional Health Commission, St. Louis Mental Health Board, and St. Louis County Library. 

“The Trusted Messenger program has been a great way for us to connect with the community to hear what they are hearing,” said Taylor Butler, MPH, Senior Research Program Manager, Health Communication Research Laboratory, Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis. “Combatting misinformation was a priority for public health throughout the pandemic. Our goal is to continue changing the landscape so that trust can be placed in public institutions to provide this information.” 

If you are interested in becoming a paid survey participant, email STLcovidhub@wustl.edu. Participants must be 18 years of age or older and reside in St. Louis. Follow iHeard St. Louis on InstagramTwitter, and Facebook – or even TikTok.