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Smart Health Choices – Making sense of health advice

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Click Here To Purchase Smart Health Choices – Making sense of health advice 

Authors: Professor Les Irwig, Judy Irwig, Dr Lyndal Trevena and Melissa Sweet

ISBN: 978-1-905140-17-6 

Every day we are bombarded with health advice from various sources.

But not all health advice is good advice. What works for your friend may not work for you – in fact it might be harmful. So how are we supposed to make sense of the information? As an educated patient we want to make the best choice based on sound medical evidence. “Smart Health Choices” aims to help in this decision making process and gives the reader the tools to access health advice better and form a health partnership with their doctor. The reader learns how to recognize useful evidence, which proves whether a treatment is beneficial or not. 

The authors of this book complement each other in their expertise. Writer and journalist Melissa Sweet has been reporting on health and medical issues for over 15 years. General practitioner Lyndal Trevena, PhD, is also a Senior Lecturer in the school of Public Health at the University of Sydney.  Les Irwig, PhD, is a Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Sydney and an internationally renowned expert on evidence-based medicine. His wife Judy Irwig is a writer and songwriter of children’s songs and brings into this book her own perspective as a healthcare consumer.

“Smart Health Choices” is divided into six parts. The first part is titled “Health advice can be harmful” and explains why health advice can be misleading and points out the common pitfalls for consumers and health professionals. It also explains how to identify bad and meaningful health claims and research and why it is not good to always rely solely on your health practitioner.  

Part two “Your body, your choice” discusses the core five questions the discerning consumer should ask when trying to make the best possible health decision. These questions are discussed in detail in chapter 5, repeated throughout the book as a reminder and form the core of the book.

Part three “Stories and Studies” explains what makes a good study. The reader learns why personal anecdotes can be problematic and unreliable and why knowing the probabilities of the benefits and harms of different treatments and tests is useful in making the right choice. 

Part four “Evaluating the evidence” teaches the consumer how to interpret the information gleaned from studies. The reader learns that a systematic review of randomized controlled trials is the most reliable evidence, while case reports and opinions is the least. This part of the book also explains what constitutes a randomized and controlled trial.

In part five “Improving your healthcare” the reader learns where to find reliable evidence, for example searching the Cochrane Library, and how to use it, and how he/she can get help to improve the healthcare services by getting involved in trials,

lobbying and being informed about legal issues. 

The last part “Testing your skills” gives the reader the opportunity to put their newly acquired decision making skills to the test and describes five different examples of health advice information and how to evaluate it.

The final three chapters explain how to understand and learn basic epidemiological skills. An extensive list of useful health information sources and a glossary of the medical and scientific terms finish the book. 

“Making Smart Health Choices” is written with the consumer in mind and explains complicated issues in layman’s terms, which makes it easy to understand. Each chapter finishes with a summary of the main points. The authors provide useful tools to access and understand health information - it is up to the reader how far he/she is willing and prepared to do the additional research to find the treatment that is right for him/her. 

Click Here To Purchase Smart Health Choices – Making sense of health advice

The above review was contributed by: Helen Kaut: Helen has an MA in art history, English and philosophy and she has been working as a freelance journalist since 2001. Since 2002 she has been based in Cardiff, Wales. Helen writes in German and English and has been published in the German media as well as in TheTimes, The Guardian and Sec-ed. She writes about education, careers, health, cats and animal welfare. To read Helen's reviews CLICK HERE 

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