IWCR INSIDERS: JULY/AUGUST 2021 EDITION
Whether you are interested in maintaining your health, avoiding future problems, or expanding your knowledge, there are many resources on the web and social media offering to help. But which can you truly rely on? How can you tell a fact from a fabrication? And what constitutes a scientific ‘fact’ anyway?
The saying goes “what we don’t know can’t hurt us,” but that is not true for the millions of Americans that suffer from chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease, especially if they are in the early or undetected stages. Obesity is different because it is visible, but it is no less challenging to understand the causes and remedies. Millions of people struggle even while they are awash in information, because much of it is confusing or misleading. It can be difficult to know what to believe. Here are some tips to help you navigate the information landscape and find the answers most relevant to you.
1. Ask questions. We trust healthcare professionals to give us advice and help with health decisions, but we can also learn from them. Understanding the medical basis of our healthcare professionals’ recommendations brings us into the process and provides an opportunity to understand, explore and learn.
2. Seek out trusted sources. It’s important to understand where information comes from. Science is developed using a method known as a peer-review — where unaffiliated senior professionals look closely at the data and methods before it a study is published. This not only aims to verify how factual and significant the information is, but also holds it to a higher standard of reproducibility. The next time you open a search window, instead of Googling only the topic terms, try adding “PubMed,” for example “how to lose weight Pubmed” — this way you are more likely to find scientifically credible sources that have been peer reviewed before publication.
3. Check the sample and method. When you find something interesting, does the study or research apply to people like you? We all have different needs, and as it turns out those needs can vary a lot by age, gender, race, and many other factors. Many studies are also done with lab animals, petri dishes or test tubes! And not all such results translate directly to humans. So look to see if the study was on people, animals or lab cultures. Does the language describe a prediction and include the phrase “more studies are needed”, or is it reporting hard data?
4. Check multiple sources. It is tempting to look for articles and other evidence that support what we already believe, but it is important to look around and see what other opinions look like, or if many trusted sources lean one way or another. Looking for 3 or more unrelated articles — articles with different authors, or that don’t cite one another — is a good way to start developing a sense of the subject from multiple points of view. Even if you can’t find — or don’t want to read the full text of — a scientific paper, the abstract and conclusion are often available for free. Also, check the year. Check the date on your source, because science evolves. Look to see if other things have been published more recently. Sometimes the updates can corroborate, but sometimes the changes in the scientific evidence can take a sharp left turn. It can be exciting to keep up to date on these developments too!
5. Get involved, stay involved, and share. Participating in research, from taking surveys such as the IWCR, to enrolling in full clinical trials, gives an inside view into the scientific process and will give insight into future developments. Getting involved opens a window into the future, giving a better sense of the direction science is headed.
Share what you’ve learned with others. Sharing what we learn from good research is not only a great way to help the information sink in, but it also helps create stronger communities. Studies show that even a single family member with increased science literacy can improve the health outcomes for other family members — imagine the possibilities if everyone we know participates by becoming more informed!
Whether it is curiosity or necessity, seeking and engaging with the science and the process can not only help improve and maintain your health, it can help every life you touch. You can help create a better world where living a healthy lifestyle becomes a positive collaboration between you, your loved ones, and everyone working in health and science on your behalf.
Knowledge truly is power, and you can empower yourself!
Do you have more to share? We want to invite you to engage more deeply with your fellow Citizen Scientists. In future issues, we will be profiling interesting people from the sciences and hopefully, from this study! We want to feature your stories, profile your opinions, experiences, and ideas. Whether you have a great success to celebrate, or struggles we can all learn from, we want to know you better.
Your story could be part of our next blog or newsletter! Do you have thoughts about what it was like to participate in the IWCR Questionnaires? Has something inspired you lately? What else do you want us to know?
Feel free to comment on this post, or write to email@example.com. Your Citizen Science experiences may be featured right here — and ONLY with your permission.
Join our IWCR Insiders Facebook group to stay part of the conversation, meet your fellow Citizen Scientists of the IWCR, post and see amazing pictures of your favorite foods, participate in interesting polls, and help grow this vital global community. If you've completed the Registry, you can join here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/iwcrinsiders/
We look forward to staying in touch with you on this important lifelong journey.