“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 brought our design experience to an international collaboration of scientists, public health experts, designers, communicators and educators on Informed Health Choices, a project with the goal of empowering people to make informed decisions about their health.
Good health and well-being depends on making good choices. Making good choices, in turn, depends on our ability to access different sources of information and judge their reliability. This can be difficult when we constantly hear claims, sometimes contradictory ones, about things that can improve or harm our health. Often, health claims lack the information we need to assess their reliability. We are expected to accept the claim without thinking critically about the quality of information behind it. This can be disempowering and limits how far people are able to participate in policy debates as scientifically literate citizens.
The goal of the Informed Health Choices project is to make sure people everywhere — in low and high income countries all over the world — have easy access to health research in formats that are understandable and useful to them. Specific outputs from the project included developing and testing user-friendly summaries of evidence and primary school learning resources to help children and their parents recognise the difference between reliable and unreliable claims.
The project was partnered by universities and non-profit organisations around the world, including in Australia, Chile, Kenya, Mexico, Norway, Rwanda, South Africa, Spain, Uganda, the UK and the US. Support for the project and the development of learning resources came from the Research Council of Norway, the UK NHS National Institute for Health Research, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Naji Foundation, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, and the European Union.
The project resulted in multiple publications, including two Lancet papers co-authored by InfoDesignLab co-founder and CEO, Angela Morelli and an online platform called ‘That’s a claim’. The platform is a collaboration with individuals and organisations from 14 fields (agriculture, economics, education, environmental management, international development, healthcare, informal learning, management, nutrition, planetary health, policing, social welfare, speech and language therapy, and veterinary medicine) that gives people a practical, easy-to-use framework to think critically about claims, comparisons, and choices.
Nsangi A. et al. (2017) 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-randomised controlled trial, The Lancet, DOI: 10.1016/S0140–6736(17)31226–6
Semakula D. et al (2017) Effects of the Informed Health Choices podcast on the ability of parents of primary school children in Uganda to assess claims about treatment effects: a randomised controlled trial, The Lancet, DOI: 10.1016/S0140–6736(17)31225–4
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, HealthNewsReview.com
Come insegnare ai bambini a difendersi dalle bufale?
Stefano Dalla Casa, Wired Italia
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