All that glitters is not GOLD-Should we trust all wellness studies?

We are awash in data. The amount of data that we now collect and digitally store is mind boggling. As an example President George W. Bush’s presidential library comprises of 80 terabytes of electronic information with over 200 million e-mails. Compare that to former President Bill Clinton’s library with four terabytes of electronic information with about 20 million emails and none for President Carter.

The data driven amongst us swear by it. Such data allows us to support or denounce various aspects of healthcare and wellness. Yet how does one make sense of the data or separate the signal from the noise? Analysis of the data source, quality of the data, its rigor, all require even more data. Even amongst experts, gut check is inadequate as it is prone to our individual biases.

Crowdsourcing leverages collective intelligence, linear experiences and individual skepticism. While generally partial to our beliefs and ideas, often we are fiercely skeptic of others. Often derided as “rabble rousers” the cynical view often keeps us honest.

In his seminal paper Ioannidis’s (Why Most Published Research Findings Are False) 25 percent of randomized studies and 15 percent of large randomized studies — the best of the best — were inadequate. Earlier studies and dogmas are constantly upended given new findings. In a recent opinion piece in NY Times Gary Gutting,  Professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame emphasizes the importance of the audience recognizing that all studies are not equal. While he suggests that the authors and reporters should clearly state the relevance using standard phraseology, for the consumer to maintain a skeptic view is also important. Our wellness is important to each one of us. But simply being a skeptic is not good enough! More in a following post…..

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