365 days of unhealthy news (and analysis)
Carl V. Phillips
Ep-ology: "a post each day about reporting in the health news that offers unhelpful analysis, gives unhealthy advice, draws unsupported conclusions, or generally perpetuates or creates scientific illiteracy. The unhealthful news for short." Anyone who "reads most the series will be much better at scientifically analyzing health research/information than almost all of those who are reporting it in the press and, frankly, better than the vast majority of those publishing in the health science journals."
This page provides an alternative access to the posts, and this main page for easy reference to specific posts. These titles do not always indicate what the post is about so in the near future we will be adding sufficient clarification.
JanuaryDay 1 a new years hangover is what you make of it - Day 2 pudgy babies and deciphering insider code - Day 3 a cancer cluster - Day 4 a pet scan of what constitutes useful negative evidence - Day 5 Scanning pets part 2, over-concluding from proxy measures - Day 6 peer review isnt supposed to be about censorship - Day 7 a breath of fresh air about peer review - Day 8 lying via use of arbitrary cutpoints (a nice example from the anti-tobacco extremists) - Day 9 recognizing the limits of research as simple as counting - Day 10 time trends are often not trends - Day 11 who, when, where, what - Day 12 more on explaining changes - Day 13 - smokers lie, and we don't need no stinkin' alternative explanations - Day 14 - three modern myths: Ophiuchus, miracles, and RCTs - Day 15 - Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, unless they are political - Day 16 - a story to help explain all those other stories - Day 17 - shocking news: kids who don't like school play video games - Day 18 -the exception: healthful news reporting - Day 19 - cost-benefit analyses that ignore the benefits - Day 20 - Just because someone tells you something does not mean it is true. - Day 21 - would you like some cereal with that milk? - Day 22 - I will continue to Countdown disgraces in the news - Day 23 - Thou shall not enjoy being healthier - Day 24 - Trying hard to avoid stooping to the phrase "food fight" - Day 25 - cynicism, like acetaminophen, can come in too large a dose - Day 26 - the State of the Union is uninspired - Day 27 - breast cancer noise - Day 28 - coffee, olive pits, and liability as regulation - Day 29 - Um, yeah, we already knew that: smokeless tobacco does not cause pancreatic cancer Day 30 - Figuring out who to believe (part 1) - Day 31 - Will anyone figure out it is not about the caffeine?
FebruaryDay 32 downplayed kcals, euphamized sofas, and overemphasized nacl - - Day 33 ESP researcher dis-clarifies his work on Colbert - Day 34 faith in peer review would be charming if it were not so harmful - Day 35 exhaustion is the leading cause of blog typos - Day 36 Will health writers ever figure out that all governments lie? - Day 37 A few bad ways to judge what health news to believe - Day 38 More on the limits of peer review, Karolinska edition - Day 39 Whatever is not said is not thought - Day 40 The unhealthful news about e-cigarettes could fill a book (hmm...)- Day 41 High stakes tinkering - Day 42 Not even curious how they know that? - Day 43 More on the limits of peer review (and a bit about e-cigarettes) - Day 44 Tree climbing octopus eats reporters' brains - Day 45 May you have a better Valentine's Day than this guy - Day 46 Only meta-analysis can provide evidence of the obvious - Day 47 Two stories of the problems with randomized trials - Day 48 It turns out that almost everyone disdains giving people information - Day 49 Good analysis of health information? Priceless. - Day 50 Reasonably good reporting about bad breast cancer treatment - Day 51 Argument is good for the soul (of science) - Day 52 The more things change - Day 53 Methadone and the urge to never be positive about harm reduction - Day 54 Exercising your brain is good, microwaving it perhaps not - Day 55 Cribs are not a safe alternative - Day 56 Slumping toward feudalism and other economic observations - Day 57 Alcohol consumption is good for heart attack but meta-analyses and "causal criteria" are bad for the health news - Day 58 Hierarchy of study types, "Hill criteria", and other anti-shibboleths
MarchDay 59 Many things trigger heart attacks, but does anything trigger "wait, what?" - Day 60 An hour of CNN offers insight about drug use (no thanks to the health reporters) - Day 61 Gas pipeline fires: applying the dollars per statistical life saved - Day 62 CNBC's unintentionally brilliant presentation about tobacco and policy (part 1) - Day 63 CNBC's unintentionally brilliant presentation about tobacco and policy (part 2) - Day 64 Four tales of bad research on tobacco - Day 65 A metaphor for the peer review process - Day 66 Toxicology as a way to figure out yesterday's weather - Day 67 A bag of assorted Jelly Bellies is the perfect food - Day 68 Health scientists discover marketing works, entire industry breathes sigh of relief - Day 69 The dangers of anesthesia for young children and of not deciding - Day 70 Four random points for the day - Day 71 Gone fission - Day 72 If the simple scientific conclusion is not correct, someone better be able to explain why - Day 73 Beware of simplistic labeling - Day 74 Controlling for confounding, an introduction - Day 75 Coffee, please, and leave room for confounding - Day 76 Fatal confounding is worse than badly controlled confounding - Day 77 Important scientific discovery: RJR products that are made from tobacco and confectionary are found to contain nicotine and confectionary - Day 78 Controlling for other variables, answering one question well, but not another - Day 79 Knowing when to say why - Day 80 Gone fishin' (ACS study of alcohol and pancreatic cancer) - Day 81 Pediatrics gets one right; the world moves backwards - Day 82 Tobacco, mint, and tea - Day 83 Hot dogs better for you than television health news - Day 84 If you cannot basically explain it in a couple of minutes, you probably do not understand it - Day 85 Overly-conclusive health science articles, and never having to say you are sorry - Day 86 If you cannot figure out how they could possibly measure that, they probably didn't really - Day 87 all I have time for before takeoff - Day 88 More conflict over conflicts of interest - Day 89 Oily e-cigarettes? - Day 90 Two little observations about little humans
AprilDay 91 Artificial logic - Day 92 A difference without a difference? - Day 93 It did not make the papers, but this is all interesting news to me - Day 94 Rockin' the low-risk nicotine - Day 95 Freedom and respect for drug users, so long as only criminals profit - Day 96 Why, WHO - Day 97 My favorite new tobacco statistics - Day 98 More on WHO, and what it means for reading the health news - Day 99 LATimes on CT scans and coffee - Day 100 A couple of observations from 100 days of Unhealthful News - Day 101 Study goggles - Day 102 The opportunity to arrive ten minutes sooner, or never - Day 103 Do what is best, not what I do - Day 104 Even when you are right, not all the science supports your point- Day 105 Stillbirth and statistics that mean nothing- Day 106 Occupational hazards- Day 107 Shape of the Earth: views differ- Day 108 News from the John Snow Pub- Day 109 New York bans freeze tag (no, not really)- Day 110 NYT manages to report about overdoses without reporting on drug use- Day 111 Black markets are just markets- Day 112 New official guide to masturbatory fantasies- Day 113 Dishonest time-series analysis (more interesting than it sounds)- Day 114 Krugman takes on some unhealthful news- Day 115 Goals are not predictions; sometimes they are not even goals- Day 116 Yesterday's non-news about e-cigarettes- Day 117 Exercise is good for six-year-olds, but not because of this study result- Day 118 How to take an unconfounded result and introduce confounding- Day 119 Adamance and conflict of interest (part 1)- Day 120 Banning use of food stamps for soda - can all of the arguments on both sides be wrong?
MayDay 121 Adamance and conflict of interest (part 2) - Day 122 More examples of why epidemiology and anti-tobacco are seen as junk science - Day 123 The breast cancer empire strikes back - Day 124 Commentators question epidemiologic result: news in itself - Day 125 Predicting usefulness of statins: a calculation is not a recommendation - Day 126 To the WHO, headaches only hurt productivity - Day 127 What passed for smoking policy analysis this week - Day 128 The value of asking "huh?" (again) - Day 129 Precaution is sensible, the fight over it is not - Day 130 Is everything ever reported about screening mammography either wrong or obvious? - Day 131 It took us how long to figure that out? - midwifery edition - Day 132 Question rhetoric - Day 133 Data fishing: a bit about how readers can deal with it - Day 134 Those with their own facts have no right to broadcast their opinions - Day 135 Bad reviews? - Day 136 Thought in the dark - Day 137 Colonoscopy and the the role of politics-of-identity in disease prevention- Day 138 Another side of Simon Chapman? Nope, he's clueless about wind turbines. - Day 139 USDA does something for the people rather than business. People complain. - Day 140 Cigarette addiction gets a lot of play this week, but still not clear what it is. - Day 141 Follow-up: Addiction & the more you read, the funnier Simon Chapman gets. - Day 142 Interpreting health science evidence, the case of wind turbines. - Day 143 Men gain weight as they leave their youth; Karolinska blames it on snus. - Day 144 New Karolinska anti-snus study, part 2. - Day 145 Statins prevent heart attacks, except maybe in real life in Sweden?. - Day 146 Tobacco harm reduction study is apparently designed to fail; it was only a matter of time. - Day 147 Bad news about pharmaceutical niacin, pretty good news about health science. - Day 148 Understanding the ethics of trials and stopping rules, part 1, with an aside about alcohol and the NHS. - Day 149 Understanding (some of) the ethics of trials and stopping rules, part 2. - Day 150 Understanding (some of) the ethics of trials and stopping rules, part 3. - Day 151 Logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead.
JuneDay 152 The biggest problem with IARC's statement about cell phones: IARC - Day 153 An odd collision of politics and science - Day 154 Three random thoughts on bad epidemiology - Day 155 I wonder if NYT reporters read the NYT - Day 156 Never trust anyone who lies about their objectives, revisited - Day 157 Never trust anyone who claims their policy is "science based", Drug Czar edition - Day 158 Brief observations about mobile phones and brain cancer - Day 159 If you have a conflict of interest, you are not really doing research - Day 160 Calculating the dollar value of the invaluable is appropriate, except when it is not - Day 161 Genes, environment, autism, and politics - Day 162 Total cost of smoking calculation, revisited - Day 163 Bad McKinsey study about health financing: it stooped to the standards of health science - Day 164 Taking scientific advice requires some scientific skill - Day 165 Applying some UN points to meta-analysis of TV watching - Day 166 Last tango for salt shakers - Day 167 "Don't worry about it" is not sufficient advice - Day 168 A followup and some amusing claims about smoking in Washington (state) - Day 169 Flawed cost of smoking calculation, part 3: treating people like crops - Day 170 Followup on the benefits of smoking - Day 171 What the U.S. government is doing for our health - Day 172 Reviews of expert analyses are not better than expert analyses - Day 173 Believable information about nearsightedness (and why) - Day 174 Many results in journals are wrong, and that's ok - Day 175 You cannot avoid mosquitoes - Day 176 But if you try sometimes, you just might find - Day 177 Prevention is better than cure, but preventive measures are often not - Day 178 Why is it never a subsidy for healthy behavior? - Day 179 Getting molested by TSA is starting to look pretty good - Day 180 Study of "No Smoking Day" may be a new low in bad epidemiology and health economics - Day 181 Avastin likely to be de-listed for treating breast cancer; if only they explained why
JulyDay 182 Did Serious people seriously think FDA regulation of tobacco would go any differently than it has? Really? - Day 183 Unhealthful News Hiatus