Facts. Figures! Fiction? Who will take the power to lead the conversation?(L1)

In the era of technology and the broad availability of information, health care professionals are facing the problem of finding the relevant and accurate information in the haystack.

The Lunch workshop 1 on ‘Facts. Figures! Fiction?’, chaired by Martin McKee (LSHTM) and Claudia Habl (Gesundheit Österreich GmbH) tackled the problem of ‘fake news’, data quality and the availability, interpretation and dissemination of information – and who influences each of these. He stresses that the term is often used without a clear understanding of what it means, and that we need to be able to distinguish between ‘misinformation’ (often involuntary), ‘disinformation’ (purposely deceiving people), and ‘fake news’ (a weaponised form of disinformation spread in a way often mimicking news media trustworthy content). However, in practice is often very difficult to make a difference between the categories. For example, anti-vaccine propaganda may be spread by those who have a genuine concern (however misguided about safety) or by those who are using the issue as a tool to undermine trust in particular governments.

Fake news is not contemporary and it is not new – it can be traced back hundreds of years when fake news was used to blackmail or extract money. What has changed is the technological landscape, that allows broadcasting them wider. Fake news has a broad definition that spans anything from satire to harmful lies used for political campaigns. In the media dementia can be beaten by following some simple rules: ’Chocolate can halt dementia’, ’Red wine pill stops dementia’, ’Lose weight to beat dementia’, ’Coffee fights Alzheimer’s’, ’Spicy diet can beat dementia’, ’Stay married beat dementia’ are only some of the examples. 

To test your knowledge, ask yourself true or false?:

  • Electronic cigarettes have been shown to be 95% safer than conventional ones
  • The increase in children obesity is because children spend all day on the iPods and watching television
  • People who are very ambitious highly driven are at great risk of having a heart attack

If you are not sure. Where will you look for answers? Who drove these collective insights? In the end, we all have to know that more data does not necessarily yield useful findings and it can lead to „data fishing“. No amount of data available can help overcome poor research methodologies. We need to remember: data, information and knowledge transfer do not stand for themselves – who has the power to lead the conversation?

This Blog was written by the Young Gasteiners Zeljka Stamenkovic and Mateusz Zatonski

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