NHS service to separate fact from fiction in the media
Forward-facing or backwards for your buggies? To drink or not to drink? Every day the media is filled with new advice of what to do and what not to do. Now the NHS website, NHS Choices at www.nhs.uk offers a daily analysis of how much people should read into these reports.
Every day, a team of medical analysts studies the original research on which the media stories have been based and come to a conclusion on how sound they think the methodology is. For example, a study of 10,000 people based over a ten year period is bound to carry more weight than a short study on mice. Recent examples include:
The study showing that babies are best pushed facing backwards in their buggies led to much discussion in the media, and no doubt a surge in sales for backward-facing buggies.
But the NHS website said: ‘Despite the news report, there is no evidence from this study that buggies which face forwards cause trauma or have an effect on how the child grows up. Such interpretations of its results are incorrect and could be seen as scaremongering.’
‘The study used heart rate as a measure of infant [l\[r\”]]stress[r\[r\”]] and the finding that babies facing forward have slightly higher heart rates is unsurprising as they would be experiencing different stimuli.’
Don’t use hairspray in pregnancywww.nhs.uk/news/2008/11November/Pages/Hairsprayandbirthdefects.aspx
NHS Choices took a similarly cautious view of media reports this week that use of hairspray by woman in early pregnancy can cause defects in their children if they are boys, concluding: ‘Given the weaknesses of the study design and the way that it was carried out, its results are difficult to interpret.’
Having a big brother increases infertilitywww.nhs.uk/news/2008/11November/Pages/Brotherhood.aspx
Again, this is not entirely accurate. The NHS said: ‘The study was of three generations of Finnish people in the 18th and 19th century. There are many differences between present day UK and pre-industrial Finland, where there was a low life expectancy (23 years), high rates of death in childhood (only about half survived beyond 15 years), a relatively late age of becoming a father (26.7 years) and strict social monogamy (97% of couples having children were married) .. the results are not strong enough to prove this theory or make it any more plausible.’
Peppermint oil soothes IBSwww.nhs.uk/news/2008/11November/Pages/Peppermintsoothesirritablebowel.aspx
The NHS website analysis took much more favourably to this high profile media story, concluding that: ‘This news report is based on a high quality, systematic review that provides good evidence that peppermint oil can be an effective treatment for irritable bowel syndrome.’
NHS Choices is the national website for the NHS. In addition to its analysis of the medical stories in the news, NHS Choices offers a comprehensive A-Z of medical conditions, Live Well content on healthy living, and the place to go to find and access the best local health services, including dentists and GPs. NHS Choices has recently integrated with the NHS Direct website so that all NHS health information is available on the one site.