Study finds children can be taught to detect dubious health claims

Posted 29 May 2017

Vox has has described a remarkable series of interventions in which grade school children were taught to detect “bullshit health claims.” In 2009, a researcher challenged aged from 10 to 12 to figure out whether M&M candies could help them write more quickly or cause them to develop stomach pain or dizziness. When they readily figured out how to do randomized controlled experiments, he began working with researchers around the world to develop lesson plans and textbooks for critical thinking skills to school children. In 2016, his research team tested some of the materials in a trial of 10,000 children in central Uganda and found that the children who were exposed to them did remarkably better than those who were not. The results of the study were published this month.

Reference: Nsangi A and others. Effects of the Informed Health Choices primary school intervention on the ability of children in Uganda to assess the reliability of claims about treatment effects: a cluster-randomized controlled trial. The Lancet, May 19, 2017

The resources inspired by the studies include an interactive Web site and a 222-page book called Testing Treatments: Better Research for Better Healthcare, which is downloadable free of charge.

Source: Consumer Health Digest #17-22, May 28 2017

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