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How to Combat False Health Claims
During the past four weeks, KFF (formerly the Kaiser Family Foundation) has issued initial results of a new and ongoing polling project that finds large percentages of people in the United States believe various health claims that research has shown to be false.
I am saddened at the obvious need for such work, not only in health care but in other facets of American life. We can argue about the extent of the problem but not about its corrosive effect on the social and political norms of our country. Distrust is poisonous. The rejection of fact-based discussion erodes the shared values and building blocks of public discourse and democratic governance. It also saddens me that some journalists support false narratives and that others don’t do more to push back.
Sunlight continues to be the best treatment for the disease of misinformation, and KFF uses high-wattage bulbs in its work. Kudos.
Here are 10 false health statements that pollsters found many people believed to be true. After each statement are Internet links to research supporting the factually true answer.
“The COVID-19 vaccines have caused thousands of deaths in otherwise healthy people.”
“Ivermectin is an effective treatment for COVID-19.”
“The COVID-19 vaccines have been proven to cause infertility.”
“More people have died from the COVID-19 vaccines than have died from the COVID-19 virus.”
“The measles, mumps, rubella vaccines, also known as MMR, have been proven to cause autism in children.”
“Using birth control like the pill or IUDs makes it harder for most women to get pregnant after they stop using them.”
“Sex education that includes information about contraception and birth control increases the likelihood that teens will be sexually active.”
“People who have firearms at home are less likely to be killed by a gun than people who do not have a firearm.”
“Most gun homicides in the United States are gang related.”
“Armed school police guards have been proven to prevent school shootings.”
There is never a final word where “truth” is concerned. KFF’s work reflects consistently liberal values. People also may find fault with the value systems of the organizations whose research it cites.
Fine. Have at it. But read the research. Make up your own mind. Don’t simply trust the sources of any doubts you have that these statements are false.
Here is KFF’s tally of how people reacted to the statements:
I urge you to send me opposing research if you disagree. Please, just make sure it’s truly research and that the reader can drill down to the facts.
I also urge you to share this piece and ask your friends and colleagues to weigh in.
Thanks. Have a sunny day!
Journalist Philip Moeller is the principal author of Simon & Schuster’s Get What’s Yours series of books about Social Security, Medicare, and health care. He is working on a new edition of his Medicare book.