By Arshya Gurbani
It’s probably safe to guess that lot of people studying Health Communication feel strongly about data, how it’s presented, and the “story” it has to tell. I thought it was about time to re-watch this, one of my favorite TED talks, about using statistics effectively. Hans Rosling presents data on child mortality, but in doing so he layers it with context and bias and paints a picture that is remarkably clear and moving. It’s good stuff–seriously, get some popcorn and a handkerchief before you watch/re-watch it!
Recently, Upstream blogger Diane Francis brought to our attention “crowdsourcing” as an emerging approach companies, organization as well as individuals are using to solve a proposed problem or design products, but with a unique twist—using the ideas and expertise of an online community. Salvatore Laconesi, a 39-year-old Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) fellow and the artist and technologist behind Art is Open Source, posted his medical records online after being diagnosed with a brain tumor in attempt to use crowdsourcing to in his words “…find the best cure…, and in the process to produce substantial social change by redefining the word “cure.” This has caused frenzy in the online world; sparking intense debate over the value of making his information available on the Internet. However, Laconesi states his main objective is to have “people of multiple cultures, skills, professions and inclinations… access, use, recombine and redistribute… “ his information to stimulate active participation sharing techniques and technologies for cancer treatment. He reports that through the collaborative work stemming from his post, his cancer growth had stopped and is currently waiting on lab results to see if he needs to proceed to surgery.
This is truly amazing. In reading some of the highlighted comments, there are certainly mixed feelings from the potential dangers of not listening to the primary physician to applauding his efforts and highlighting that the social support is beneficial (provides a way to learn about potential surgeries or drugs to discuss with the doctor and find alternative coping strategies).
What do you think? Is this dangerous or a move in the right direction?
Image source: http://www.tassedecafe.org/802-hacker-soin.html
I walked into the study last night, and caught my husband at it again. There he was, staring at the computer…watching a TED talk.
For those who don’t know, TED.com is a place to hear incredibly passionate experts from every field imaginable talk about everything from robots to art restoration to the history of General Tso’s chicken. Last night, my husband clicked on a talk by Ben Goldacre titled “Battling Bad Science” and the enthusiastic tone from a man talking a mile a minute about epidemiology caught my attention. He lays out in less than 15 minutes what anyone who writes, speaks or reads about health issues need to know, namely the different kinds of medical trials and their varying levels of rigor. But his conclusion, the last three minutes of the talk, is what really caught my attention.
Dr. Goldacre declares in rapid-fire dialogue that publication bias is the single greatest ethical dilemma in medicine today, a bold statement but one worth considering. He reports, for example, that half of all trial data on anti-depressants has been withheld, and negative data goes “missing in action” in all fields of medical research. How can health professionals, let alone the public, make difficult medical decisions if they do not have all the evidence to weigh in the balance?
Goldacre concludes, “I think that sunlight is the best disinfectant.” My question is: who is responsible for finding this “missing data,” all of the studies with negative or null results that go unpublished? Is it academia? Industry? Government? Do health communicators have a roll to play – either in educating the public about how to interpret research results, or in pushing for the publication of trials with negative results?
Have you ever thought about publication bias, and do you have any creative solutions to this problem?
We love TED
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