Can You Find Evidence in Your Health Care Books?


SMTE CHALLENGE! Go to your book shelf or go to a bookstore and pick up one health care book. Now look inside and find any health care claim that catches your eye (which shouldn’t be hard to find in any health care book.)

Claims come in many shapes and sizes.  How do you spot a claim? In this case, a claim will try to tell you that a certain treatment (i.e. drug, surgery, diet, etc) is better than another treatment (i.e. live longer, fewer heart attacks, lower cancer risk, etc.)  For example: Eating yogurt can help prevent yeast infections, or taking an Aspirin a day can help reduce your risk of Stroke.

Once you’ve located a claim, scan the pages surrounding it and see if you can find any evidence: numbers or data backing up that claim.  Look for the number of people who took the therapy of interest and experienced success or failure and then look for the comparison group (took no therapy or a different therapy.) Any luck?

If you do find some data/evidence, ask yourself these questions:

  • Did the data come from a real study where they compared the therapy (i.e. drug, lifestyle, surgery) to another treatment?
  • How many people were studied? 10 or 100 or 1000? The more people the more reliable the data.
  • How long were the patients followed? If a claim says this medicine or vitamin prevents cancer then the follow up better by really long (i.e. 20 years)
  • Who was in the study? Were they like you (i.e. sex, age, medical history, etc?)

In most cases, the answer to these questions is “No.” If you do find a health care book that provides all this evidence, then please leave us a comment with the name of the book, and page number because we’d love to read and promote books that deliver the evidence!

Note: many authors (and book editors) will say either:

  • “We did not include all the evidence because we would not have enough space.” In those cases you need to see if they provided references to the studies or evidence sources they relied on. If not, then they aren’t likely to have relied on real evidence at all.
  • “We did not include evidence and/or references because the readers don’t want to be bored with this data. Or most people can’t understand the evidence anyhow.”

Say NO to this myth. It’s just not true. Just an excuse by book authors/editors to avoid doing the extra heavy lifting of finding and providing the evidence behind their claims. And/or maybe they don’t want you to see all the evidence because it might refute or not support their claims.

It is your right as a consumer of a health care book to demand evidence.   When we stop buying books that don’t have access to the relevant evidence, then the authors and publishers will SHOW YOU THE EVIDENCE!

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