Navigating Health Information and Misinformation

by | Nov 8, 2022 | Resilience

There have been many descriptions of “the scientific method,” but what is perhaps most important is not so much what it IS as what it is NOT—it is NOT deciding that something is true just because someone said it is.

In the 2000 years from 400 BC to 1600 AD, the population of Europe made little progress towards civilization. Transportation, agriculture, travel, medical care, structures, plumbing, clothing, and warfare didn’t change substantially for two millennia. But the next 500 years were a very different story, with the pace of progress so rapid that the life experiences of each new generation have been hugely different from those of their parents.

What changed?  And what does it have to do with charting a course to better health?

What changed for that population can be stated in a sentence, but would require a thousand pages to describe in detail: they developed a far superior method of determining whether or not something is true.

Prior to (roughly) the year 1600, there were three well-established methods of evaluating the truth of statements: 1) it was the dictum of an authority, whether political or religious 2) it was in alignment with some ancient philosopher, and 3) other people thought it was true.

The success of those methods is measured by the degree to which they had moved civilization forward. In other words, zero.

The new method of determining whether or not something was true over time came to be called “science.”  There have been many descriptions of the scientific method, but what is perhaps most important is not so much what it IS as what it is NOT—it is NOT deciding that something is true just because someone said it is.

Fast forward to the 21st century, when we are living in an ocean of information and misinformation about just about everything, and especially about health (because it’s such a lucrative field). How do we decide what is true, if we’re not to believe something because someone said it?

Let me tell you what we do at eSavvyHealth.

1. We don’t accept as truth anything said by someone who is selling a health product or service. We’re not saying that those are always lies, just that if the purpose of information is to sell you something, then at the very least whoever is providing the information is not going to tell you things that would make you disinclined to buy whatever it is. Which means that you will be getting information which has been filtered and is therefore biased.

This applies equally to someone who has been paid to convince you of the value of a particular health product or service. We’re not just talking about celebrity endorsements here, we’re also talking about scientists whose work has been funded by companies that stand to profit if the results published by those scientists support the use of the company’s product or service.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that all scientists whose work is funded by, for example, pharmaceutical companies, are dishonest—but it does mean that if their results don’t support the use of pharmaceutical products to treat diseases, those results are much less likely to see the light of day. So the articles that do see the light of day will have a bias.

2. We read books by people who have the experience and credentials to be considered to be true experts in the subjects their books are about—people who aren’t involved in selling anything besides their books.

3. We read articles and reports of studies by individuals who as best we can tell are not funded by companies who sell health products and services. There are a few libraries of such articles that address generally fundamental and well-established aspects of how the body works that we have found generally reliable.

4. Finally, we compare author claims and statements against what we already know and understand to be true about how the body works.

You may not have the time or inclination to do steps 2 and 3 above. But you certainly can do step 4—does it align with what you already know–with every claim or statement you hear about health from any source. That is, you can apply that step if you already have knowledge that you are confident of.

And therein lies our primary purpose as a company—to help you acquire and understand such knowledge.

In this regard, keep in mind that the knowledge we want you to develop is not just data or information—it consists of understandings that you are quite certain of. The more certain you are, and the more such understandings you have, the greater will be your own ability to find your way through the ocean of misinformation as you chart a course to your own better health.

Dave Hendry

Dave Hendry

Position

Dave Hendry is co-founder of The 5 Fundamentals of Health and Fundamentals of Health Alliance. He has an extensive CV in research, education and curriculum development.

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