Misinformation Is Hurting Life Expectancy: FDA Chief

Robert Califf says Americans are being misled on more than COVID
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 12, 2023 7:35 PM CDT
Misinformation Is Hurting Life Expectancy: FDA Chief
Robert Califf, FDA commissioner, testifies on Capitol Hill in September.   (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Life expectancy is the US has been declining, including in relation to comparable high-income countries, and one federal official says part of the reason is the recent explosion of misinformation. "Why aren’t we using medical products as effectively and efficiently as our peer countries?" Robert Califf, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, asks CNBC. "A lot of it has to do with choices that people make because of the things that influenced their thinking." Misinformation is a problem Califf has made a priority at the FDA.

"You think about the impact of a single person reaching a billion people on the internet all over the world, we just weren't prepared for that," he said. "We don't have societal rules that are adjudicating it quite right, and I think it's impacting our health in very detrimental ways." Misinformation's quickening spread can be traced to the COVID-19 outbreak and US political divisions, Califf said, but it's now altering understanding of health conditions such as cardiovascular diseases. With more people than ever on the internet, he said, bad data is reaching larger audiences, often leading them to hesitate about health care choices, per the Hill.

Better government regulation is needed, Califf said, including by the FDA, to combat misinformation. In rural areas, he said, people are "faring much worse" on health outcomes and life expectancy. It's especially frustrating, Califf said, because the US is the world leader in "innovation and medical products" and has the "safest food." But other countries are doing more with what they have. After peaking at nearly 79 years in 2019, US life expectancy fell to 76.1 for 2021. (Read more life expectancy stories.)

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