It is miraculous to consider how much access and exposure we have to information through our computers, televisions, radios and newspapers. Unfortunately, we need to be on guard because too much of this buzz can be false information.

In an October 2017 article, the Pew Research Center found 43 percent of people in 2016 received their news from Facebook listening for information that aligned with their world view (not necessarily with facts). Pew also found 23 percent had shared, by intention or accident, untrue political messages on social media. We need to be more critical of all sources of information around us. Almost as malignant as fake news are advertisements that pretend to be factually based.

Of course, marketing (sales) can be good and important as it moves commerce, and I’m not saying industry doesn’t sponsor credible scientific research. However, marketing can be harmful when selling a weight-loss program that gives false hope, when peddling virility pills that are ineffective or when pushing an outrageously expensive drug that should be used only after first-line medicines are tried. Advertisements can and should be based on truth, but my cynical side sees the words “truth in advertising” as an oxymoron, like “seriously funny,” “awfully good” or “found missing.” Indeed, marketing motives can be as different from evidence-based science as corn syrup is to leafy green vegetables.

It has been our desire and goal at Healing Words Foundation to find and help spread health information that is not influenced by marketing or sales. What is known today as Prairie Doc media started in the 1980s with newspaper articles, expanding in the 1990s with a local talk AM-radio show, in 2003 with a television show and in 2010 with social media. Prairie Doc has been made possible with the help of volunteer physicians and experts, South Dakota State University and its students, our paid and voluntary Prairie Doc production staff, our Foundation Board of Directors and, most importantly, the unrestricted underwriting of organizations and individuals like you. We feel blessed to have such wonderful talents and gifts allowing us to bring our unbiased and credible public health information to the people.

The mission statement of the Healing Words Foundation and all Prairie Doc programming is enhancing health and diminishing suffering by communicating useful information, based on honest science, provided in a respectful and compassionate manner.

This is a call for all of us to be careful and critical. We don’t have to be influenced by fake news but rather need to choose our sources of information carefully. Let this be a time of truth.

 

(Richard P. Holm, MD  writes for Prairie Doc Media. Visit prairiedoc.org or follow Prairie Doc on Facebook.)

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