Category: Public Health

Legislating Ignorance

Science is under attack, and not just from anti-vaccine celebrities and parents with degrees from Google University. Scientific illiteracy is being woven into the very fabric of our society through legislative assault. If you dismiss this as alarmist hyperbole, you haven’t been paying close enough attention. Every day thousands of pediatric health care providers throughout the country provide safety advice to patients...

/ September 12, 2014

Pass the Salt (But Not That Pink Himalayan Stuff)

Humans, like many other animals, crave the taste of salt. Animals frequent salt licks, humans have traded salt for equal weights of gold, and the word “salary” comes from the Roman soldier’s allowance for purchasing salt. Salt appears in our language in idioms like “worth its salt” and “salt of the earth.” Shakespeare’s play King Lear is a variant of a folktale...

/ August 19, 2014

Ebola outbreaks: Science versus fear mongering and quackery

“Ebola virus particles” by Thomas W. Geisbert, Boston University School of Medicine – PLoS Pathogens, November 2008 doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1000225. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons. Without a doubt the big medical story of the last week or so has been the ongoing outbreak of Ebola virus disease in West Africa, the most deadly in history thus far. Indeed, as of this...

/ August 4, 2014

NY federal court hands triple loss to anti-vaccination ideology

The state of New York allows religious and medical (but not philosophical) exemptions from school vaccination mandates. New York City has a policy of excluding unvaccinated schoolchildren from classes when there is an outbreak of vaccine-preventable disease reported in a particular school. Two sets of parents whose children had religious exemptions sued New York City and the state in federal court when...

/ June 26, 2014

In which Dr. Gorski is taken to task by an eminent radiologist for his posts on mammography

Introduction: An unexpected e-mail arrives One of the consequences of the growing traffic and prominence of this blog over the last few years is that people who would otherwise have probably ignored what I or my partners in blogging write now sometimes actually take notice. Nearly a decade ago, long before I joined this blog as a founding blogger, if I wrote...

/ May 26, 2014
Mark Hyman

Bill and Hillary Clinton go woo with Dr. Mark Hyman and “functional medicine”

Mark Hyman is a "pioneer" (if you can call it that) in a new form of quackery known as functional medicine, which combines a lot of the worst features of conventional medicine with a large dollop of "make it up as you go along" quackery. Unfortunately, it appears that the Clintons find his narrative compelling.

/ April 14, 2014

New evidence, same conclusion: Tamiflu only modestly useful for influenza

Does Tamiflu have any meaningful effects on the prevention or treatment of influenza? Considering the drug’s been on the market for almost 15 years, and is widely used, you should expect this question has been answered after 15 flu seasons. Answering this question from a science-based perspective requires three steps: Consider prior probability, be systematic in the approach, and get all the...

/ April 10, 2014

Mammography and the acute discomfort of change

As I write this, I am attending the 2014 meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR, Twitter hashtag #AACR14) in San Diego. Basically, it’s one of the largest meetings of basic and translational cancer researchers in the world. I try to go every year, and pretty much have succeeded since around 1998 or 1999. As an “old-timer” who’s attended at...

/ April 7, 2014

“Right to try” laws and Dallas Buyers’ Club: Great movie, terrible for patients and terrible policy

One of my favorite shows right now is True Detective, an HBO show in which two cops pursue a serial killer over the course of over 17 years. Starring Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, it’s an amazingly creepy show, and McConaughey is amazing at playing his character, Rustin Cohle. I’m sad that the show will be ending tomorrow, but I really do...

/ March 8, 2014

Messaging and Public Health

Affecting public health has a few components. It includes providing a safe environment at home, at work, and in public spaces. It involves protecting the food and water supply from pathogens and toxins. Perhaps the most challenging component, however, is affecting people’s behaviors. Humans are complex psychological animals, and simply providing information to facilitate a rational decision may not always have the...

/ March 5, 2014