Science for Public Consumption


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an informed patient is an empowered patient … with the goal of achieving improved health outcomes.
… shared or informed decision-making, evidence-based patient choice, or concordance.

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  • Science for Public Consumption

    1. 1. Science for Public Consumption Eddy Lang, MD, CFPC (EM), CSPQ SMBD-Jewish General Hospital, McGill University Montreal, Canada
    2. 2. Objectives <ul><li>The burgeoning and double-edged sword that is the medical internet. </li></ul><ul><li>Medical research in the news </li></ul>
    3. 3. Disclaimer <ul><li>Montreal-based newspaper column that I write will be mentioned in this column </li></ul><ul><li>No other conflicts of interest to declare </li></ul>
    4. 4. Why look for health information? <ul><li>Better understand what your doctor is telling you </li></ul><ul><li>Participate in your health </li></ul><ul><li>Be a partner with your doctor </li></ul><ul><li>Make informed decisions </li></ul>
    5. 5. Studies show… <ul><li>… an informed patient is an empowered patient … with the goal of achieving improved health outcomes. 1 </li></ul><ul><li>… shared or informed decision-making, evidence-based patient choice, or concordance.” </li></ul>1. Coulter A, Ellins J. Effectiveness of strategies for informing, educating, and involving patients. BMJ  2007;335:24-27. Available from
    6. 6. <ul><li>Accessible 24/7 </li></ul><ul><li>Free and fast </li></ul><ul><li>Up-to-date </li></ul>Why look for health information?
    7. 7. Statistics Canada: a portrait of seniors <ul><li>2006-2026: Aging population (over 65) will double </li></ul><ul><ul><li>2006: 4.3 million = 13.2% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2026: 8.0 million = 21.2% </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Use of Internet among seniors </li></ul><ul><ul><li>2000: 11% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2003: 28% </li></ul></ul>
    8. 8. <ul><li>MedlinePlus </li></ul><ul><li>Mayo Clinic </li></ul><ul><li>WebMD </li></ul><ul><li>CiSMeF </li></ul><ul><li>Public Health Agency of Canada </li></ul>1. General interest
    9. 9. For seniors <ul><ul><li>WebMD Healthy Aging Guide </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>MedlinePlus: Seniors Topics </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Health Canada: Healthy Living - Seniors (Bilingual) </li></ul></ul>
    10. 10. Evaluating health info <ul><li>Evidence-based medicine for the lay person </li></ul><ul><li>MedlinePlus guide to healthy surfing </li></ul>
    11. 11.
    12. 12.
    13. 13. Evaluating the news <ul><li>Does the story include references? </li></ul><ul><li>Are these references authoritative? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Which study? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Journal name? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Author? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Date? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What kind of study? </li></ul></ul>
    14. 14. Evaluating the news <ul><li>Behind the medical </li></ul><ul><li>Health News review </li></ul><ul><li>Media </li></ul>
    15. 15. What’s wrong with health news? <ul><li>Contradictory headlines about research </li></ul><ul><li>Bias in scientific journalism – spin </li></ul><ul><li>Pharmaceutical industry influence </li></ul><ul><li>Investigator’s perspective </li></ul>
    16. 16. What’s missing in health journalism? <ul><li>Context </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What’s the disease and the challenge? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What did we already know from research? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Not all research is created equal </li></ul><ul><li>Health journalists can’t make recommendations </li></ul><ul><li>Researchers may not have a balanced view </li></ul>
    17. 17. Healthwatch <ul><li>Bi-monthly column in the Gazette </li></ul><ul><li>Co-written with Evra Taylor-Levy - healthcare journalist </li></ul><ul><li>Evidence-based medicine / expert input </li></ul><ul><li>Important research that affects many </li></ul><ul><li>Concrete recommendations </li></ul>
    18. 18. Preventing falls among the elderly <ul><li>Major health problem for the elderly </li></ul><ul><li>Physical and psychological consequences </li></ul><ul><li>30% of them fall each year </li></ul><ul><li>Downward spiral </li></ul>
    19. 19. <ul><li>What works? </li></ul><ul><li>Review of 44 studies </li></ul><ul><li>Balance training beats simple exercise </li></ul><ul><li>The longer and tougher the better </li></ul>Preventing falls among the elderly
    20. 20. <ul><li>Hypertension – the silent killer </li></ul><ul><li>1/3 suffer from it </li></ul><ul><li>Hard to control </li></ul><ul><li>White coat effect </li></ul>Keeping an eye on blood pressure
    21. 21. <ul><li>Should you measure it? </li></ul><ul><li>How? </li></ul><ul><li>Single readings? </li></ul><ul><li>Every day? </li></ul><ul><li>Morning? </li></ul>Keeping an eye on blood pressure
    22. 22. <ul><li>7-day period </li></ul><ul><li>Measure at rest, sitting </li></ul><ul><li>2-3 readings </li></ul><ul><li>Morning and evening </li></ul>Keeping an eye on blood pressure
    23. 23. Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease <ul><li>Major obstacle to living better </li></ul><ul><li>Affects 40% of those 85+ </li></ul><ul><li>Major social and financial implications </li></ul><ul><li>Can it be prevented? </li></ul>
    24. 24. <ul><li>Diet? </li></ul><ul><li>Mental exercise? </li></ul><ul><li>Medication? </li></ul><ul><li>One proven treatment </li></ul>Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease
    25. 25. <ul><li>Active people less likely to be affected </li></ul><ul><li>Proof? </li></ul><ul><li>Only a randomized trial can prove cause and effect </li></ul><ul><li>Exercise had a dramatic impact on improving memory </li></ul>Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease
    26. 26. HealthWatch <ul><li>Approaching two years of columns </li></ul><ul><li>Online archives and useful links </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] (e-mail) </li></ul>
    27. 27. Conclusions <ul><li>Little is known about how the public understands and uses health information </li></ul><ul><li>Balanced, evidence-based reporting of health news is lacking and needs to be better </li></ul><ul><li>Explaining medicine to our patients is our responsibility </li></ul>
    28. 28. Thank you!