Scientific Illiteracy Leaves Many at Risk in Making Health Care Judgements

Posted on September 8, 2009  Comments (5)

Scientific literacy is important for many reasons and that importance has increased greatly over the last century. Medical research is often difficult to interpret. Often various studies seem to contradict each other. Often the conclusions that are drawn are far too broad (especially as the research conclusions are passed on and people hear of them overly simplified ways).

Many health care options are not obviously all good, or all bad, but instead a mix of benefits and risks, both of which include interactions with the individuals makeup. So we often see contradictory (and seemingly contradictory) advice. Without a level of scientific literacy it is very difficult for people to know how to react to medical advice.

We have numerous posts on the scientific inquiry process showing that acquiring scientific knowledge is complex and can be quite confusing in many instances. While understanding things are often less clear cut than they are presented it is still true that most often strategies for healthy living have far better practices that will provide far better results than alternatives.

The scientific illiteracy that has some think because their are risks no matter what is done that means there is no evidence some alternatives are far superior is very dangerous. As you can see in action now with those that risk their and others lives and health by doing things like not vaccinating their children, or driving when drunk, or driving when talking on a cell phone.

Without a scientifically literate society even completely obvious measures like not using antibiotics on viral infections are ignored.

Related: Long Term ADHD Drug Benefits QuestionedHow Prozac Sent Science Inquiry Off TrackLifestyle Drugs and RiskCorrelation is Not Causation: “Fat is Catching” Theory Exposed

Warning for healthy aspirin users

Healthy people who take aspirin to prevent heart attacks could be doing more harm than good

Professor Peter Weissberg, of the British Heart Foundation which part-funded the latest research, said: “We know that patients with symptoms of artery disease, such as angina, heart attack or stroke, can reduce their risk of further problems by taking a small dose of aspirin each day.

“The findings of this study agree with our current advice that people who do not have symptomatic or diagnosed artery or heart disease should not take aspirin, because the risks of bleeding may outweigh the benefits.”

The Asprin Foundation, which offers advice on the use of asprin, said there was an existing, strong body of evidence supporting the use of low-dose aspirin to help prevent heart trouble in appropriate patients.

It said such aspirin use was only appropriate where individual patients were “considered by their doctor to be at special risk from particular factors such as obesity, lifestyle, stress and a familial history.”

5 Responses to “Scientific Illiteracy Leaves Many at Risk in Making Health Care Judgements”

  1. Jason
    September 11th, 2009 @ 12:16 pm

    People seem to change their minds about what’s good for you and what’s not on a regular basis, it leaves the general public bewildered!

  2. Ronda Waters
    September 14th, 2009 @ 1:52 pm

    Yes, changes is scientific knowledge can leave the public bewildered, but the public needs to understand that science is not just understood overnight. It takes theory, experiments, analysis and more to understand and prove what was found. That’s why everyone should have had some science experience in school to understand what it takes to understand science related topics such as global warming, diseases and even health care.

  3. Anonymous
    September 26th, 2009 @ 12:06 pm

    ,what does Scientific literacy constitute anyway?…I do not know if I am to be categorized on the literate population or the opposite

  4. Marilyn
    December 21st, 2010 @ 1:27 am

    This is a wonderful post and a delightfully easy read to introduce newbies to the world of science.

  5. CDC Report on Failures to Vaccinate » Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog
    May 25th, 2011 @ 1:24 pm

    […] Science brought us the miracle of vaccines and the near elimination of many diseases. Unfortunately people are choosing to bring those diseases to many more people because they failed to get vaccinated or failed to vaccinate their children. The needless pain and suffering caused by these poor decisions are a sad testament to scientific illiteracy. […]

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