Informed Health Choices

“Dr. Hoenikker used to say that any scientist who couldn’t explain to an eight-year-old what he was doing was a charlatan.” Dr Breed in Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

InfoDesignLab is proud to collaborate with an extraordinary team of scientists, researchers and communicators from all over the world on Informed Health Choices, a project whose goal is to empower people to make informed choices.

Good health depends on people making good choices. Good choices depend on their ability to obtain, process, understand and judge the trustworthiness of the relevant health information. Most people lack that ability and they lack easy access to reliable information.

Some of the scientists we are collaborating with on theInformed Health Choices project

The problem

Claims about health effects are everywhere

There are endless claims about what improves or harms our health: claims about the effects of drugs, surgery and other types of “modern medicine”; claims about lifestyle changes, such as changes to what you eat or how you exercise; claims about herbal remedies and other types of “traditional” or “alternative medicine”; claims about public health and environmental interventions; and claims about changes in how healthcare is delivered, financed and governed.

Most people are unable to assess claims

Most health messages simply tell people what to do or make a claim without providing adequate information for people to make informed choices. In addition, health and science education tends towards rote learning rather than critical thinking, so most people never learn how to assess health claims or make informed health choices.

Unreliable claims lead to harm and waste

People’s mistaken trust in unreliable claims has led to millions of unnecessary deaths, untold suffering, and billions of dollars being wasted every year. Conversely, failure to believe and act on reliable claims also leads to unnecessary suffering and inefficient use of resources. Economically disadvantaged people suffer disproportionately, as they can least afford to waste resources.

Reliable information is hard to access

Huge efforts have gone into health research and into summarizing what we know from that research. However, most people do not have easy access to that information. Now we need to harness that information by making sure people everywhere have easy access to research findings in formats that are understandable and useful to them. We need to empower them to use it, to make well-informed choices, and to improve global health.

The learning resources developed for the Informed Health Choices project
A spread of the children’s book

The solution

Our solution is two-fold:

Learning resources that will enable people to recognize reliable and unreliable claims, and to use reliable information to inform their decisions.

Accessible evidence that will make it easy for people to find and use the best available research evidence to inform their decisions.

Critical thinking about claims

We are developing, testing, and scaling up the use of effective learning resources to enable people to think critically about health claims and make informed choices. We started with primary school resources, to lay a foundation for continued learning. The resources will complement and facilitate teaching critical thinking and scientific reasoning in other areas. We also started in low-income settings, where the need is greatest.
Explore our learning resources

Easy access to reliable information

To make it easy for people to access reliable information, we are preparing user-friendly summaries of evidence of effects together with other necessary information in formats that have been shown to meet people’s needs, including summary of findings tables, plain language summaries, and evidence to decision frameworks.
Explore our resources for making evidence accessible

Better personal choices and policy decisions

Our solution will empower individuals to make better personal choices. It will also enable them to participate in policy debates as scientifically literate citizens. Today’s children are tomorrow’s health professionals and policymakers, as well as patients and citizens. To achieve the benefits of a scientifically literate population making well-informed decisions, we need to start with children and the time to start is now, for their benefit and the benefit of humankind.

International collaboration

We are working together with teachers, students and other stakeholders in designing learning resources in different countries around the world — including low- and high-income countries. We are using user-centred design to make sure we develop resources that are engaging, understandable and feasible to implement in a range of contexts. Before scaling up the use of resources, we are testing them in fair comparisons (randomized trials) to make sure that they are effective.
Read more about how we work

During a ceremony at a school in Kampala that took part in the Informed Health Choice project

In the media:

New program uses comics to teach kids about junk science
Adriana Barton, The Globe and Mail

Immunizing children against deadly bullshit
Matt Oxman,

Come insegnare ai bambini a difendersi dalle bufale?
Stefano Dalla Casa, Wired Italia

Our world is awash in bullshit health claims. These scientists want to train kids to spot them.
Julia Belluz, Vox

Teaching children to make better health decisions
Richard Smith, BMJ Blogs

Evaluar mensajes de salud es cosa de niños
Gonzalo Casino, Escepticemia

Teaching kids to assess goopy health claims
Matt Oxman, Evidently Cochrane

Kan vi lære skoleelever kritisk tenkning om helsepåstander?
Can we teach kids to think critically about health claims? (English translation)
Matt Oxman, Lena Nordheim & Atle Fretheim, Aftenposten