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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly on Health Information

We are surrounded by information about health. Some of it’s good. Some of it’s not so good. And some is downright bad.

The Good…

The good stuff will often be found in peer-review journals. This means a research study has been evaluated by experts in the relevant field before being published. The journal regards the research to be high quality and the study has evidence for the conclusions made. Unfortunately, not many journals are open access and freely available. The other tricky thing is that the methodologies and language used to write the articles are very technical. It is then up to science/health communicators and the media to translate the research into something meaningful to the general public. This is where things can get a bit hit and miss for a range of reasons.

 

Various medical peer review journals
Articles are published in journals that focus on different specialties

Some research institutions and research funders including not-for-profits will talk up the results to promote their work. The promise of clinical trials imminently, when in fact they are several years away, is a common tactic. The research may well be encouraging but it is a cruel enticement for those patients who don’t have years to live and no likelihood of making it on to a trial. Many institutions and funders do of course report responsibly about their findings, perhaps at the risk of being a little boring, and their stories constitute more of the good stuff you’ll find on the Internet and beyond.

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