Alcohol Use Disorders (85) Disinformation is a public health crisis (2) Contradictory advice from professsionals (3)

24 February, 2024

I would like to highlight one comment in this Los Angeles Times article, from Tara Kirk Sell of Johns Hopkins University's Center for Health Security:

"Public health needs to be transparent about the reasons why advice is changing," Sell says, "explaining that if you didn't change with new evidence, you would be doing a disservice to the public. Maybe we didn't do a good enough job in this pandemic in saying we're going to learn more, and our advice may change. And we'll do our best to keep you as informed as possible as that advice changes."

This is relevant to the discussion we have been having in the past 2 weeks about the huge inconsistency of advice to the general public that is given by health professionals and health organisations.

The key problem, as highlighted by Richard Velleman, is that they assume a level of certainty or - at least - fail to communicate the uncertainty of the cumulative evidence.

This is an indictment of all such health professionals and organisations. By assuming certainty, or not communicating uncertainty, they are part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

How can we support health professionals to recognise uncertainty and to see the importance of communicating this to their patients and the general public?

HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of HIFA (Healthcare Information For All), a global health community that brings all stakeholders together around the shared goal of universal access to reliable healthcare information. HIFA has 20,000 members in 180 countries, interacting in four languages and representing all parts of the global evidence ecosystem. HIFA is administered by Global Healthcare Information Network, a UK-based nonprofit in official relations with the World Health Organization. Email: