Tim-CaulfieldLately, Timothy Caulfield has been making a name for himself as the academic who challenged Gwyneth Paltrow in his book, Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?: When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash.

But as an expert in health law and policy at the University of Alberta, Caulfield’s investigations of pseudoscience extend much further than celebrity diets.

“We’re at a very interesting time in history because all of this great science is being produced, but it’s never been so twisted with so much baloney being shared,” said Caulfield in a phone interview. “It’s a fascinating tension between the two realities and that’s playing out in the context of vaccinations.”

On May 13, Timothy Caulfield will give a keynote address entitled “Celebrities, Pseudoscience and Social Media: What’s Driving Vaccine Hesitancy?” as part of the FPA Professional Institute, “Vaccine Hesitancy: Combating a ‘Wicked’ Risk Communication Problem” at Carleton University.

“Vaccine hesitancy is an extremely complicated problem because these people are not scientifically illiterate; they feel they’ve educated themselves on the issue,” said Caulfield. “They are driven, in part, by a lack of trust in traditional sources of health information and in the pharmaceutical industry. They believe the research is compromised.”

Caulfield adds that the problem has been exacerbated by social media: “Twitter, Facebook, and blogs are all disseminating and magnifying this pseudoscience. It creates communities that support these beliefs.”

The professional institute is bringing in experts from across North America to discuss the profile of people who are vaccine hesitant, as well as strategies to improve communication with them. Caulfield argues health authorities have to keep the conversation going.

“Providing scientific information alone doesn’t change people’s minds. But I think we have to keep hammering away at the facts,” said Caulfield. “We can’t shy away from engaging and if we don’t engage loudly, we won’t be heard—because the internet’s not going away.”

Timothy Caulfield is a Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy at the University of Alberta. He’ll be giving the keynote address at the FPA Professional Institute, “Vaccine Hesitancy: Combating a ‘Wicked’ Risk Communication Problem” on May 13.

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