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Is it any wonder we’re confused?

May 5, 2009

Part of my job is to produce a braille digest magazine focusing on health. Once a month I pull out a tray filled with clippings of health stories from three broadsheet newspapers, plus the Express and Mail (groans).

I was talking to one of this magazine’s readers, who was arguing that I shouldn’t be using my Bad Science filter to stop the “wine/cheese/chocolate/good clean air causes/cures cancer/heart disease/allergies” stories. She had a point, our blind readers should have access to all the nonsense that sighted readers have. My argument is that with less than 7,000 words each month, the readers deserve to get the better quality stories, not the trash.

I’m in the middle of producing this magazine now and couldn’t help noticing a particular glut of contradictory stories. All of these clippings have been taken from mainstream newspapers in the last 30 days: What Beans Mean (a story about why it’s safe to eat soy foods); Why soya is not such a super food; Drugs ‘hide cancer’ (statins mask prostate cancer signs); Just what the doctor ordered (why you should be taking statins); A wine a day ‘can lead to shakes’; Half a glass of wine a day ‘adds five years to life’; Aspirin danger to the brain; Aspirin reduces cancer risks…

No wonder readers don’t know what to make of the media coverage of swine flu – or the Aporkalypse as Ben Goldacre would have it.
Keep your hankies handy boys and girls and remember to keep washing your mitts – good advice at all times n’est pas?

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