Recently, I’ve found myself engaging vigorously in debates with friends and family about issues pertaining to health care policy and news. I’ve engaged these discussions purposely, with an eye to correcting misinformation that has spread like some highly contagious virus from some exotic place.
My fervor for and knowledge of health care has increased over the last few years, ever since I started a position as editor for a national organization dedicated to gathering information about issues of public policy. My area is health care, and our readers range from interested citizens to federal legislators who need to be informed about trends, legal precedents and legislative activity across the country. Every day, I research health care policy news in all corners of the internet, from international sources to local, reading both partisan perspectives and strictly scientific material. I regularly refer to sources ranging from world-renowned hospitals to major universities and schools of medicine, from independent research labs to the National Institutes of Health, but also including major corporations in medical and pharmaceutical industries, international and international journalists with unimpeachable reputations, foreign and local press and journals covering health care around the globe, and, whenever possible, horse’s-mouth articles from health care professionals on the front lines of today’s issues. I think it’s safe to say I am more informed about health care policy and news than the average woman on the street.
It is with this knowledge, then, that I have pursued so forcefully the task of repairing the damage caused by rumor, dogma, and hysteria. I do not claim to be an expert on any health care subject, but I have a handle on where to get accurate information, and how to confirm news through more than one source, and how to weed through the headlines and drill down to the heart of the matter. When I don’t know, I go and find out. I read, I study, I compare, I question, I verify. Every single day.
When I see people spreading outright lies about health care, I will stop them. There are few greater dangers to our populace than the rapid spread of misinformation about health care policy and news. Because of the internet, lies and rumors spread like quicksilver — but also because of the internet, the truth is available to anyone who will simply look and listen. Truth be told, my job as health care editor isn’t diffiult, just time consuming. You can find out the same information if you just ask that sweet little Google interface “hey, if I eat watermelon seeds, will a watermelon plant sprout in my stomach?”
Google will find about two million articles containing all those words. Just read a couple of those articles and you’ll learn what you need to know.
And boy, do I love using Snopes.
Despite what you may think, health care is not an intuitive science. Just because you believe something to be true doesn’t make it true. I know someone who truly believed that if you left a baby’s belly button uncovered, the baby would get gas. (I didn’t have to research that one to know the truth.) The information is out there, and most of what I argue with people isn’t “believe me, I know what I’m saying!” it’s “verify, read, compare information, GET EDUCATED.”
If you don’t know for sure about a thing, if you are afraid because the information you’ve seen is incomplete or seems sketchy, you can (and I know this for a fact!) find out, rather quickly and painlessly. The information is out there. But if you cling to that fear, then you have chosen to ignore the vast stores of information available.