Prime Time Living - Page 12 - Consider the source

Prime Time Living
- Page 12
Consider the source
When it comes to your health, verify, verify, verify

By Margit B. Weisgal, Contributing Writer

Can you trust the source of your information? Do you really want to know the truth? Is the data coming from a reliable authority? A few years ago, someone I didn’t particularly care for or respect criticized something I did. We all have our insecurities, so I took it to heart, questioning my actions, gnawing at it like a dog with a bone. Then a good friend asked me who said this. When I retold the story, he said, “Consider the source. Is this a person whose opinion you trust? If not, ignore it.” I could finally let it go.

Our sources of information vary greatly. Some are local, affecting us on a personal or community level. Other data we share is global – state, national and international – and comes from what we read, see or learn. Some is gossip (“Did you hear about…?”); some is part of beliefs that inform our judgments and perspectives.

Charlene Lohmann got a call from a friend who was dealing with some medical issues. “She said she had done lots of research about her diagnosis,” she relates, “and learned a lot. I questioned where she did her research, though. There’s so much stuff out there. How do you know what’s legitimate?” Over lunch, Isabella Sanborn responded to a friend’s question with, “Lord Google has the answer. Just do a search.”

With the ubiquity of computers, smartphones, tablets and the like, any question can be answered in a matter of seconds. We don’t stop and think about what search terms we’ve selected, or which websites appear as a result. Our clickthroughs, visits to specific web sites, rarely go beyond the first page. URLs (web addresses) that paid to be in the top spot are first and, then, the search engine’s algorithm serves up answers – and they’re different hour to hour and day to day. Change the keywords or even the syntax for your search and a whole different set of responses show up.

As the world gets infinitely more complicated, so does the amount of content generated each day. For a fun glimpse at a real-time measure, visit FX Tools ( ), which has counters for the 26 most popular social media sites. In the old days – before the internet – published material was vetted for accuracy. Now, anyone can create a website and upload his or her opinions, blogs, commentaries, viewpoints, videos, etc., but it’s not verified or validated by anyone. Unless it includes citations from legitimate sources, you don’t really know if what is said is true.

An excellent example of inaccurate information is the reason for the resurgence of measles and mumps. News reports from Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin, and King County, Washington, the day this is being written, detailed outbreaks of these childhood illnesses in two widely separate parts of the country, diseases that had almost been eliminated. (A third article cited yet another research study of 650,000 children that said, again, there is no correlation.) These outbreaks happen because some people refuse to inoculate their children with the MMR vaccine despite the requirement that all children be immunized by school systems. These parents go to great lengths to exclude their children because of a belief that it causes autism. Twenty years ago, a flawed study of 12 children (yes, only 12) posited this connection and was retracted due to research misconduct and the doctor’s license revoked. These “anti-vacs” (anti-vaccine) refuse to believe numerous research studies that show there is no correlation.

An article on food allergies in a popular magazine had this caveat: “Despite what wellness blogs may suggest, don’t try to make a bunch of dietary changes on your own, because you could develop nutritional deficiencies, and you may not succeed in uncovering the root of the problem. [He] suggests seeing your pri-

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