“Fake News” about Health

Blog / Sunday, May 13th, 2018

Since it’s become legal to advertise drugs, “foodaceuticals,” and procedures directly to consumers, we’ve been flooded with ads using sophisticated marketing techniques to influence our health behavior. Most appeal to our emotions – our fears and hopes – rather than asking us to apply critical thinking. Misrepresentation of the facts is common. Important information is hidden in small print or jargon. Another big worry is that “fake” evidence – company-sponsored, short-term results – is dressed up as science.

Look at the list below. What do ads in magazines and TV rely on? Yes, you got it: personal experience and word of mouth – often, simply stories and “testimonials.” In the small print, it often says, “Results not typical.” As the saying goes, “the plural of anecdote is not data.”

Don’t be fooled! Get your information from your health professionals, the scientific literature, or from authoritative organizations like the National Institutes of Health or the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

BEST Systematic scientific reviews (peer-reviewed, published)
Journal articles (peer-reviewed, published)
Public health statistics
to Published program evaluations
Opinions of community members and other stakeholders
Company-generated (marketing) data
Word of mouth
WORST Worst Personal experience
Where do we find reliable information about health?