Assessing health claims in the news


This talk was given by Professor Carl Heneghan at Continuing Education Open Day in Sep 2016

Download the talk: (Assessing the evidence behind Health Headlines)

Download the Google Doc of the talk


Carl Heneghan

Carl Heneghan, Director CEBM

So how do you get your news? In the UK, on average, 18.2 million read the Daily Mail or the Mail on Sunday through their print & website. Next comes the Sun, the Mirror and then the Guardian – reaching, all together, over  55 million readers a month.  

A lot of this news is made up of health claims, some of which is obviously ridiculous; but there is no doubt, news is a big drawer for readers: 5% of all google searches are for health claims, and so the plethora of big hitting health headlines continues.

The question then is “What strategies do you use to assess evidence in  news headline?” to tell the good from the bad, the truths form the untruths and the interventions you should do something about and those you should ignore.

The four strategies that I talk about to assess health claims in the news include:

  1. What type of evidence is this?
  2. Does this research apply to me?
  3. How much is the result affected by bias?
  4. What is the  effect?

For example, knowing that one study found that fewer than 1 in 10 highly promising basic science discoveries made it through to routine clinical use within 20 years, might alter how you perceive headlines in the future (such as this in the BBC on malaria), when you realise it was done in mice.

This talk was given at Continuing Education Open Day in 2016

How to assess health claims in the news

(listen to the podcast coming soon)

Prof Carl Heneghan

“Tomatoes ‘cut risk of prostate cancer by 20%’,” the Daily Mail reports, citing a study that found men who ate 10 or more portions a week had a reduced risk of the disease. Carl Heneghan, Professor of Evidence-Based Medicine, will talk about how  to assess the science that regularly makes the news and affects your health.

One comment on “Assessing health claims in the news

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