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I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D., senior staff, U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).
Here is what's new this week in To Your Health, a consumer health-oriented podcast from NLM, that helps you use MedlinePlus to follow up on weekly topics.
Scientists need to take a more active role to counter the public's misunderstanding and mistrust of science, suggests one of the U.S.' leading research officials in a recent editorial within Science.
Rush Holt Jr. Ph.D., the executive director of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a former U.S. Congressman, notes public mistrust, misunderstanding, and apathy towards science are evident at the same time researchers are making significant progress in understanding basic questions about health, economics, and nature.
For example, Holt explains immunology research is opening the possibility of what he terms 'long-dreamed therapies' that will improve both individual and public health.
Yet, simultaneous to this and other constructive developments, Holt suggests there is persistent public skepticism regarding scientific counsel about topics, such as climate change, vaccine safety, and genetically modified foods. Holt notes there also seems to be a paradoxical apathy that the White House has not chosen a science advisor more than a year after the current administration's election.
Holt writes (and we quote): 'The inconsistency indicates widespread misunderstanding of what science is and how it works' (end of quote).
Moreover, Holt adds the public seems to misinterpret the principle that all scientific evidence is provisional. He writes (and we quote): 'Some seem to think it means science is so uncertain that any opinion or political assertion is as valid as evidence' (end of quote).
For researchers to counter current public misperceptions, Holt suggests scientists need to establish that evidence-based strategies foster more reliable policies to create jobs, create a healthier environment, and address other contemporary social challenges.
Holt adds (and we quote): 'Scientists must demonstrate that science and evidence-based thinking are relevant to everyone, and that science is not an arcane practice under the control of a remote, self-interested priesthood' (end of quote).
Holt concludes current American scientists need to rebuild the public's understanding and appreciation of science. He writes (and we quote): 'It comes down to good science communication —not simply choosing the right words to explain one's research, but actually earning the public's trust that the whole enterprise is intended for the public's good' (end of quote).
Meanwhile MedlinePlus.gov's health topic page about understanding medical research illustrates the professional-lay intersection that Holt advocates by helping consumers understand health-related topics grounded in medical research.
For example, the National Institutes of Health provides a website that helps non-experts understand health risks within the 'start here' section of MedlinePlus.gov's understanding medical research health topic page.
Similarly, the Lewy Body Dementia Association provides a website that boosts the public's broader understanding of medicine also in the 'start here' section of MedlinePlus.gov's understanding medical research health topic page.
To find the understanding medical research health topic page, please type 'understanding medical research' in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov's home page, then, click on 'understanding medical research (National Library of Medicine).' MedlinePlus.gov also has health topic pages devoted to evaluating health information and health literacy.
Overall, we hope the latter health topic pages help families, patients, and caregivers improve their health (or the health of their loved ones) and better understand the research that underlies medical advice.
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It was nice to be with you. Please join us here next week and here's to your health!