Recently, CreakyJoints Español presented data showing that of the three most viewed factual and three most viewed inaccurate Spanish-language videos about rheumatoid arthritis (RA) on YouTubevideos containing misinformation had at least two times the views of factual videos (1.45 million versus 660k). It creates a cycle where the more popular misinformation videos, whose titles promise a cure or a novel treatment for RA have more engagement by users, impacts YouTube’s algorithm by offering these videos for viewing more often, thereby building their reach compared to factual RA videos. 

DocWire News spoke to Daniel Hernandez, MD, Director of Medical Affairs and Hispanic Outreach for Global Healthy Living Foundation, and Esteban Rivera, MS, Data Analyst, Global Healthy Living Foundation.

DocWire News: Can you talk to us about this study?

Dr. Daniel Hernandez: Sure. So the reason why we even did this in the first place is because anecdotally we had observed this rampant misinformation in the Hispanic community on conditions that we educate our community on, which is RA and other rheumatic conditions. Especially… We’ve seen this rampant misinformation, especially on social media platforms, such as YouTube, Facebook, WhatsApp, which are the most used by our community. So to investigate why videos with misinformation about RA are appealing to Spanish speakers. We really wanted to dive in deep and analyze this starting with a very methodical approach and then grow from there, right? So that’s the reason why, as you explained, we started with YouTube videos and YouTube videos alone. So we compared them and we found, as you mentioned, they are being viewed much, much more than the factual videos. But we found some very, very interesting insights using a bevy of tools. We analyzed the text within the comment section, we analyzed the videos themselves, and it was eye-opening to say the least.

How big an impact does misinformation have on the RA community? 

Esteban Rivera: That’s a question that is probably… We can’t even really put a hard number on it, but I think the main thing that we tried to focus on here is [inaudible 00:01:52] the disparities between how misinformation is in the Hispanic community versus the non-Hispanic community since information travels so differently at different speeds, et cetera, et cetera, between the two communities. It was clear that the Hispanic community is experiencing a little bit of a different animal when it comes to misinformation, especially on social media.

How does misinformation contribute to the ongoing health disparities in the Hispanic community?

Dr. Daniel Hernandez: Yeah. So what we’ve seen is, especially Hispanic patients, but underrepresented communities, we see that they take much longer to go to a physician and get diagnosed properly and start their treatment at a time where they can prevent many preventable diseases or many preventable injuries. That’s what Esteban was alluding to is one of the things that is very prominent in the Hispanic community is that they are being diagnosed at a later date, they have more injuries and more… Their disease state is in a much more difficult situation than a non-Hispanic patient. And that’s what we’re seeing that misinformation is, is aiding this by giving alternative… quote/unquote alternative treatments to the patients, giving them a sense of comfort, and “You don’t have to go to the doctor. You can just do this. You can just work on your diet. You can just do this and this and this.” These natural alternative treatments are rampant within this misinformation, and it feels like it’s just a vicious cycle that goes throughout our community. And it’s just affecting the bottom line, which is that Hispanic patients aren’t being seen on a timely basis where they could prevent many, many of their symptoms.

What can be done to reduce health misinformation on social media?

Esteban Rivera: I think a lot of what we want to do with this information is bring attention to the Hispanic community, specifically RA patients, of course when it comes to being able to differentiate between factual information versus misinformation online. Obviously, in these scenarios, you don’t have your provider there next to you, but one… another thing that we hope that this does is it brings it to light to the Hispanic community to be more to communicative with their provider so that they have a good knowledge base when they’re going online and trying to find other sources, because that’s inevitable. But the most important thing is for them to be able to differentiate between facts and non-facts.

Any closing thoughts?

Daniel Hernandez: So thank you so much for inviting us here, and I’d just like to highlight that… or really emphasize that our study highlights the urgent need to drive Spanish-speaking communities to credible sources of information. But also we’ve been hearing these large platforms, these social media platforms talk about them trying to combat this misinformation, but not many are speaking about the Spanish language or other languages other than English, and we’d like to highlight how prevalent it is and how dangerous it is and a call to action for them to also look into this. We’d also like to invite everyone that’s listening and watching us to visit our pages ghlf.org. You can find all of our resources there. And if you’re a physician, we invite you to refer your patients to our patient education.

Esteban Rivera: Daniel said it very perfectly. The only thing I’ll add is we’re just trying to make sure that the Spanish-speaking community is you put in the proper situation where they’re having proper communication with their providers and doing everything they can to just be the best patient.