Key Concepts for Assessing Treatment Claims: A New Blog Series
Posted on 6th June 2017 by Selena Ryan-Vig
â€œDrinking coffee reduces your liver cancer risk by 50%â€
Â â€œPowerful new HIV drugâ€¦ is hailed a successâ€
â€œEating plenty of salmon, mackerel and sardines protects against Alzheimerâ€™sâ€Â
These are just a handful of claims about treatments you might have come across recently. ButÂ every day – in the news, in conversations with friends and family, while browsing the internet – weâ€™re exposed to numerous claims like these. Making sense of treatmentÂ claims â€“ whether theyâ€™re about drugs or diet â€“ can be difficult. Claims may be biased, unsubstantiated, or inaccurate.
As difficult as it may be to assessÂ treatmentÂ claims, itâ€™s also essential. At best, making health decisions on the basis of unsubstantiated assertionsÂ is a waste of time and money. At worst, it can be harmful. But howÂ can we make sense of it all?
To help us out, an Informed Health Choices project teamÂ have developed, and continually revise, a list of â€˜Key Conceptsâ€™ that people may need to understand to assess treatment claims. Currently this list comprises 34 Key Concepts which individuals can apply to help decide whether:
- â€œThe basis for a claim is reliable; i.e. whether it is based on fair comparisons of treatments. (A fair comparison being one which is designed to minimise the risk of errors).
- The results of fair comparisons are relevant to you.
- Additional information is needed to assess the reliability and relevance of claims about treatments and, if so, what information is neededâ€ [1; p.113].
At Students 4 Best Evidence, we believe these Key Concepts are vital to help us think critically about theÂ treatment claims we’re exposed to daily and weâ€™re keen to raise awareness of them. As such, a group of over 10 students has been busy preparing a series of 34 blogs, one to explain and elaborate upon each of the Key Concepts. The first blog will be published on Monday 12th June. From then on, weâ€™ll be publishing one or two blogs each week. Given current concerns about a proliferation of â€˜fake newsâ€™ and â€˜alternative factsâ€™, this series feels particularly timely.
We hope these blogs will highlight some important things to be aware of when you next read or hear a claim being made about a treatment. In each blog, weâ€™ll also be pointing you towards lots of useful resources to further help you to think critically about treatment claims. Youâ€™ll be able to find all of the blogs on Facebook, TwitterÂ and the Students 4 Best Evidence website and we welcome your comments.
- Austvoll-Dahlgren A, Oxman AD, Chalmers I, Nsangi A, Glenton C, Lewin S, Morelli A, Rosenbaum S, Semakula D, Sewankambo N. Key concepts that people need to understand to assess claims about treatment effects. J Evid Based Med. 2015 Aug;8(3):112-25. doi: 10.1111/jebm.12160.