Know Your Chances
This book has been shown in two randomized trials to improve people's understanding of risk in the context of health care choices.Key Concepts addressed:
- 1-1 Treatments can harm
- 1-2 Anecdotes are unreliable evidence
- 1-7 Beware of conflicting interests
- 1-9 Earlier is not necessarily better
- 1-11 Explanations about how treatments work can be wrong
- 1-12 Dramatic treatment effects are rare
- 2-1 Comparisons are needed to identify treatment effects
- 2-2 Comparison groups should be similar
- 2-3 Peoples' outcomes should be analyzed in their original groups
- 2-5 People should not know which treatment they get
- 2-15 Fair comparisons with few people or outcome events can be misleading
- 2-16 Confidence intervals should be reported
- 2-17 Don’t confuse “statistical significance” with “importance”
- 2-8 Consider all of the relevant fair comparisons
- 2-13 Relative measures of effects can be misleading
- 3-1 Do the outcomes measured matter to you?
- 3-3 Are the treatments practical in your setting?
- 2-12 Subgroup analyses may be misleading
The goal of this book is to help you better understand health information by teaching you about the numbers behind the messages—the medical statistics on which the claims are based. The book will also familiarize you with risk charts, which are designed to help you put your health concerns in perspective. By learning to understand the numbers and knowing what questions to ask, you’ll be able to see through the hype and find the credible information—if any—that remains.
Copyright © 2008, The Regents of the University of California.
Browse the contents:
- What This Book is About
- Part 1. What Is My Risk?
- Part 2. Can I Reduce My Risk?
- Part 3. Does Risk Reduction Have Downsides?
- Part 4. Developing a Healthy Skepticism
- Extra Help
Every day we are faced with news stories, ads, and public service announcements that describe health threats and suggest ways we can protect ourselves. It’s impossible to watch television, open a magazine, read a newspaper, or go online without being bombarded by messages about the dangers we face.
Many of the messages are intended to be scary, warning us that we are surrounded by danger and hinting that everything we do or neglect to do brings us one step closer to cancer, heart disease, and death. Other messages are intended to be full of hope, reassuring us that technological miracles and breakthrough drugs can save us all. And many messages do both: they use fear to make us feel vulnerable and then provide some hope by telling us what we can do (or buy) to lower our risk. In addition, as you may suspect, a great many of these messages are wildly exaggerated: many of the risks we hear about are really not so big, and the benefits of many of the miraculous breakthroughs are often pretty small.
As a result, we are often left misinformed and confused. But it doesn’t have to be that way.