Identifying Credible Sources of Health Information in Social Media – CMSS-NAM-WHO Collaboration


Program Overview

The Council of Medical Specialty Societies (CMSS) was pleased to collaborate with the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) and the World Health Organization (WHO) on Phase 2 of a project on identifying credible sources of health information in social media. The output of this phase is a framework for organizations to be able to identify and vet a wider set of credible health sources beyond entities already subject to standardized vetting mechanisms. With a focus on source credibility, these updated principles can be used to identify and elevate credible sources of health information on social media and related platforms.

Program Outcomes

Click here to download a Program Overview PDF. 

Read the NAM Perspectives Discussion Paper

Advisory Committee

Susan Curry, PhD, Co-Chair
Dean Emeritus and Distinguished Professor of Health Management and Policy, University of Iowa Megan Ranney, MD, MPH, Co-Chair
Academic Dean, School of Public Health, Director, Brown-Lifespan Center for Digital Health, Warren Alpert Foundation Professor of Emergency Medicine Vineet Arora, MD
Herbert T. Abelson Professor of Medicine, Dean for Medical Education, The University of Chicago Medicine, Pritzker School of Medicine Wen-Ying Sylvia Chou, PhD, MPH
Program Director, Health Communication and Informatics Research Branch, Behavioral Research Program, National Cancer Institute Ricardo Correa, MD, EdD
Director, Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism Fellowship, Director for Diversity in Graduate Medical Education, The University of Arizona College of Medicine, Phoenix Donna Cryer, JD
Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Global Liver Institute Don Dizon, MD, FACP, FASCO
Professor of Medicine and Professor of Surgery, Brown University, Lifespan Cancer Institute Efren Flores, MD
Associate Chair, Equity, Inclusion & Community Health, Mass General Brigham Radiology Enterprise Assistant Professor of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital
Gerald Harmon, MD
Vice President of Medical Affairs, Tidelands Health
Immediate Past President, American Medical Association Anjali Jain, MD
Physician/ Medical Officer, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Kevin Johnson, MD, MS
David L. Cohen University Professor of Computer and Information Science, Biomedical Informatics, Bioengineering, Pediatrics and Science Communication
Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Christine Laine, MD, MPH
Editor, Annals of Internal Medicine at American College of Physicians Lindsey Leininger, PhD
Clinical Professor and Faculty Director, Center for Health Care, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College Graham McMahon, MD, MMSc
Chief Executive Officer, Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education Laura Michaelis, MD
Associate Professor, Interim Chief, Division of Hematology and Oncology, Froedtert Hospital Cancer Center, Medical College of Wisconsin Ripudaman Minhas, MD, MPH, FRCPC, FAAP
Developmental Pediatrician, Women’s and Children’s Health Program,
St. Michael’s Hospital, Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, University of Toronto Richard Mularski, MD, MSHS, MCR
Senior Physician and Distinguished Investigator, Northwest Permanente and Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research John Oldham, MD, MS
Distinguished Emeritus Professor, Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Baylor College of Medicine Rema Padman, PhD
Trustees Professor of Management Science & Healthcare Informatics, Carnegie Mellon University Claude Pinnock, MD MPH
Chief Medical Officer, Wider Circle Jessica Rivera, MS
Infectious Disease Epidemiologist and Science Communicator, The Pandemic Prevention Institute, Rockefeller Foundation Brian Southwell, PhD
Senior Director, Science in the Public Sphere, RTI International Antonia Villarruel, PhD
Professor and Dean of Penn School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania Brian Boxer Wachler, MD
Book Author and Director, Boxer Wachler Vision Institute Katrine Wallace, PhD, CPH
Epidemiologist & Adjunct Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago

Program Contacts

Helen Burstin, MD, CMSS CEO,
Suzanne Pope, CMSS Project Manager,

About Phase 1 and Phase 2

Phase 1

Figure 1: Assessment Flowchart for Credibility of Sources of Health Information in Social Media, NAM Perspect. 2021

Figure 1: Assessment Flowchart for Credibility of Sources of Health Information in Social Media, NAM Perspect. 2021

In Phase 1, an independent advisory group convened by NAM developed a discussion paper entitled “Identifying Credible Sources of Health Information in Social Media: Principles and Attributes.” The NAM discussion paper included a set of principles and attributes that could be used to assess entities for credibility, including: 1) science-based; 2) objective; and 3) transparent and accountable. The NAM and WHO convened a meeting to review and validate these principles for a global application.

Potential sources of credible information included:

  • Non-profit and government sources with pre-existing, standardized vetting mechanisms, including government organizations, academic journals, accredited healthcare organizations, educational institutions, and public health departments;
  • Non-profit sources without standardized vetting mechanisms, including non-profit organizations, foundations, patient disease organizations, and community health organizations
  • For-profit entities and individual sources were considered out of scope in Phase 1

As noted in the NAM flowchart for credibility of sources of health information (Fig. 1 on the next page), organizational sources could be afforded a preliminary assumption of credibility if they were subject to pre-existing, standardized vetting mechanisms, including government accountability, accreditation, and academic journal indexing. Social media platforms, including YouTube, have begun to label content produced by one of these authoritative sources with pre-existing vetting mechanisms.

Phase 2

In Phase 2, CMSS will collaborate with NAM and WHO to focus on a larger body of content producers, including non-profit entities not subject to vetting mechanisms, for-profit entities, and individuals, in order to:

  • Establish how non-profit entities not subject to vetting mechanisms can demonstrate their alignment to the NAM principles and attributes.
  • Consider and adapt existing principles and attributes for for-profit entities and individuals

Newly adapted principles and attributes will be used to assess the source credibility of this set of expanded sources. This new phase of work will also consider the additive value of objective source credibility assessment for clinical leadership that provides organizational scientific oversight, as well as for individual content creators.

While the updated guidance will be used to identify and elevate credible sources by social media platforms, organizations that share health information through social media may find the updated principles and credibility attributes useful in assessing their own approach. Members of the public might also use this guidance to inform their personal evaluation of sources. Both groups should be engaged by social media platforms and others seeking to improve the accessibility of high-quality health information in social media.

An advisory panel will guide this phase of work and will include authors of the Phase 1 NAM paper, WHO representatives, and additional expertise that can objectively construct a globally relevant, expanded set of principles, attributes, and definitions applicable to this broader group of potential sources of credible information.