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Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing

Conspiracy Theories in Health

For policy-making and research in health and health care, it is crucial to understand the spread of ideas and beliefs as well as diseases. Conspiracy theories about secret agendas behind vaccination programmes, the side effects of medical treatments, and cover-ups by the government or pharmaceutical industry are prevalent in many countries, and can have highly detrimental effects on people’s wellbeing. There are many valid reasons for people to be skeptical of government or corporate efforts to improve their health and wellbeing. Thalidomide, DDT, MMR vaccines, cigarettes, BSE (‘mad cow’) disease, HIV/AIDS; these are all products or diseases where denials or cover-ups have been attempted in order to mislead the public about causes and effects. Lack of knowledge can be devastating: in South Africa, for example, false or misguided claims about the origins and best treatments for HIV/AIDS led to the untimely deaths of an estimated 330,000 people. The interdisciplinary team who comprise the Special Interest Group seek to understand how and why conspiracy-related beliefs proliferate despite their potentially harmful outcomes, and to identify the specific contexts in which they flourish. Find out more by clicking on the links below:

If you would like to join the Conspiracy Theories in Health Special Interest Group, please send a short paragraph (no more than 100 words) explaining your background and why you are interested in the group to Jamie.Tehrani@durham.ac.uk or A.J.Russell@durham.ac.uk.