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Saturday, September 15, 2012

It's All In Your Perspective: Read Critically

As a mother of two middle schoolers, I know that school attempts to teach kids to read critically, but I don't think the population as a whole really catches on.

Headlines amaze me. I know they are trying to sell a newspaper or become the # 1 rated program on tv, but they spin stories so much it is sad. More than sad. They take advantage of our gullibility. They enrage people or get them riled up and then people share misinformation. This has happened time and again with many health issues. Just watch Oprah or Dr Oz. (For those who trust Dr Oz, see the bottom for links expressing my concerns.)

Recently some parents (more than one family, don't think I am singling anyone out here) have read a recent headline and want to stop a lifesaving drug for their children. No joke. They worry more about the drug that their child is thriving on because of one headline.

Asthma drug may stunt growth permanently is the title of a NBC News story.  Makes you think the poor asthmatic kids will never be able to perform in life because they are too short. Personally I would rather my child breathe comfortably while running, playing, and living regardless of how tall he/she will be, but really you need to look more closely than the title. (And many people only read headlines, so wouldn't read that the total difference was 1 cm = 1/2 inch. Not 1/2 foot or anything that really is significant in my humble opinion. Few jobs will require another 1/2 inch of height.)

Medscape is an online medical journal I follow. The title of their story about the same research: Pediatric Corticosteroids Have Minimal Effect on Adult Height.  If you are a headline reader, you will have a much different opinion about this life-saving asthma prevention medicine.

No wonder sometimes parents worry so much about things that we as physicians seem to "ignore" or not understand your concerns. We aren't concerned based on the way we have interpreted the research. Hopefully we can explain why we are not concerned, but often times emotions scream louder than statistical analysis information. I have blogged on this before in Decisions Parents Make: Use all the facts.

Please read information critically on your own. Think over what you read. Get additional information from other sources if it is a big issue to you. Think some more. Then make a decision you can stand firm in and not regret. Please.

For more:
Science-Based Medicine's blog: For shame, Dr. Oz, for promoting Joseph Mercola on your show! and Dr. Oz promotes quackery... again