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Know What?

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In my last blog post, I gave an overview of how to “filter the firehose” of health information overload. You don’t need to know it all; you only need to know enough to make positive choices for your health. It requires filtering for trusted information you can act on. I suggest using a three question filter.

  1. Know What?
  2. So What?
  3. Now What?

Today we’ll get deeper answers to the question of “Know What?”. 

“Know-It-All’s” try to know everything. “Know-Enough’s” try to know what is trustworthy.

Finding trusted health sources is the most critical part of our firehose filter. It requires filtering our own biases and examining the trustworthiness of health information.  

Can I Trust Myself?

It's been said that people always love to hear good news about their bad habits. We all have our pet health habits or beliefs which will motivate how we interpret health information. 

Pay attention to your initial reaction to new health information. Do you “want it” to be true…or untrue? Why? Are you being rational or reactive?  Awareness of your own personal bias will help you be more objective in choosing trustworthy health sources.

Can I Trust My Sources?

A simple mantra I use is “no reference, no confidence.” Anyone can say anything. But if they’ll show you where or how they got their information, it shows transparency and increases trust.

However, even if there is a reference, how do you know if you can trust it? I like to consider the “Three E’s”.

  1. Education – The level of health education or experience of the information provider
  2. Evidence – The quality of evidence provided by the information source.
  3. Existence – The motivation for the health information provider’s existence.

Most health sources will sit somewhere on a spectrum of trust for each “E” factor. It is often related to the trustworthiness of the information providers.

Trust factor

Least trustworthy

Most Trustworthy

Education

Un-credentialed author(s)

Credentialed/experienced author(s)

Evidence

Pure opinion

Scientifically informed opinion

Existence

Reference supports personal profit

Reference supports public service

See the attached PDF for a more in-depth look and for some helpful examples.

“Know-Enough’s” can use the Three E’s to filter out the least trustworthy sources. And the closer a source is to the “most trustworthy” column, the quicker they can take action on it and answer the “So What?” question. We’ll do that in our next blog post. 

Author

Brian is a health writer and researcher from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He graduated from the University of Alberta with a Master's in Public Health, Health Promotion.