YANSS 149 – Expert advice on how health experts can better provide good health advice to combat bad health advice from non-experts

In this episode, we sit down with vaccine expert Dr. Paul Offit to discuss his new book, Bad Advice or Why Celebrities, Politicians, and Activists Aren’t Your Best Source of Health Information.

Offit has been fighting for years to educate the public, promote vaccines, and oppose the efforts of anti-vaxxers, and in his new book he offers advice for science consumers and communicators on how to deal with what he calls the opaque window of modern media which often gives equal time to non-experts when it comes to discussing vaccination and other medical issues.

Offit likes to say, “Science doesn’t speak for itself.” Someone always speaks for it. Evidence can be twisted, ignored, and selectively presented to support just about any conclusion. Although scientists and other experts are the best source of information about the topics they study, they aren’t always great communicators, he says, and so the media instead gathers around those who are — celebrities, politicians, activists, lobbyists and other camera-savvy non-experts who often cause harm with misleading and incorrect interpretations of facts that ignore the scientific method that produced those facts in the first place.

He urges scientists to learn from his own mistakes over the years as he slowly figured how to deliver medical advice and scientific summations in a way that clearly and simply communicates what we know so far without inflaming fears or providing fuel for conspiratorial thinking.

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From his official bio, “Paul Offit is a pediatrician specializing in infectious diseases and an expert on vaccines, immunology, and virology. He is the co-inventor of a rotavirus vaccine that has been credited with saving hundreds of lives every day.” Offit is a professor of vaccinology and pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and the director of the Vaccine Education Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Offit has published more than 160 papers in medical and scientific journals. He is the author of ten books on science and medicine.

Links and Sources

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Previous Episodes

Paul Offit’s Official Website

10,000 Vaccines Paper