This commentary suggests public health experts can contribute to critical health literacy.
Understanding the multiple messages and recommendations surrounding COVID-19 is difficult given the high levels of uncertainty surrounding the virus. The abundance of health information from numerous, and sometimes untrustworthy, sources makes it difficult to control the risks. Critical health literacy is key to meeting the challenges posed by this wealth of information. Simply knowing about the risk (i.e., functional health literacy) has proven to be ineffective as people are both over- and under-reacting (e.g., panic shopping, gathering in masses). Public health leaders and politicians have a responsibility to help the public accept uncertainty and respond to their concerns while motivating them to engage in critical reflection and action. By contributing to a broader understanding of how to reflect on complex health issues and critically assess available information, public health experts can promote behaviors that are most useful during the COVID-19 crisis.