Monday, 20 June 2011

Public Health? Evidence-based? Who are you trying to kid, Mr Goldacre?

There is a problem with the so-called public health profession. No, it’s not that they want to ban all our pleasures – we can deal with that through reasoned argument and by ignoring them. The problem is that the public health folk do insist on using (or rather misusing) evidence that is wholly or partly incorrect.

It seems that the majority of health claims made, in a large representative sample of UK national newspapers, are supported only by the weakest possible forms of evidence.

Now this is undoubtedly true – even of the Guardian – but does it mean that Mr Goldacre is prepared to accept that much of the newspaper coverage of alcohol is both inaccurate and partial? And that the actual evidence for passive smoking causing more risk than, for example, pollen or diesel fumes is pretty thin?

Somehow I expect Ben and his mates will carry on pimping for public health fanatics – a bunch of people who cheerfully twist any statistic to promote their prohibitionist agenda. And who weep not a single tear when over 500 people lose their jobs because of the latest public health gimmick. A gimmick supported by what a judge called “little better than guesses”.

And, Ben, this statement of yours is almost certainly untrue:

People who work in public health bend over backwards to disseminate evidence-based information to the public.



Anonymous said...

Bravo. I am glad to see this posted. Maybe in time this will begin sinking in and become more general knowledge, once people stand back from the health propaganda proliferating in all the newspapers and start to take a deeper and more realistic look into what is actually being claimed by them. They certainly have been mis-using and abusing statistics and lack of solid evidence, in all sorts of matters, and getting away with literally dictating laws that the majority neither wants nor is calling for. It seems all the healthists need to do anymore is say "study shows" and something "may" cause - then another new nanny law gets passed. And in some of these "studies", further inspection will reveal lack of any solid "evidence" what-so-ever - and in some cases, it will be based on essentially a craftily worded opinion poll distributed amongst a select set whom can be expected to arrive at the "right" conclusion. Talking heads polly parrot the "results" while newspapers copy and paste the "news". It's deplorable, the current state of things and far removed from actual science, data and facts as one can go, a mis-use of "science" instead of how it was originally intended and operated in the past.

Adam said...

Is there a bit of a straw man argument going on here? Yes, a lot of public health evidence is lacking in robustness, but what are these "all our pleasures" that the public health profession is seeking to ban?

The only thing I can think of that's banned that is possibly relevant is smoking in public indoor spaces (which does actually have a pretty damn good evidence base). Is there anything else you think is banned, which shouldn't be?