Bad Advice; Or Why Celebrities, Politicians, and Activists Aren't Your Best Source of Health Information.

Author:Waggoner, Susan
Position:Book review
 
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Paul Offit; BAD ADVICE; Columbia University Press (Nonfiction: Science) 24.95 ISBN: 9780231186988

Byline: Susan Waggoner

Every day, thousands of "leading experts" tell us what to embrace and what to avoid. But how useful is the advice? How do useless trends and products make their way into the public sphere while harmless ones become villains? Bad Advice by Dr. Paul Offit offers smart, well-researched, and eye-opening answers, showing how "expert" advice can become misleading and how ideas unsupported by evidence can become widespread beliefs.

To make its points, the book uses current topics, such as opposition to childhood vaccinations and the rise of the gluten-free diet. Although most issues are health related, issues like global warming are also noted, and the real-world examples make for a compelling read.

In addition to demonstrating weak links in the communication chain, the book also delivers a good deal of useful information. Without heavy-handed blame, chapters note the many factors that lead to bad advice, including human nature, financial motivation, personal and political agendas, celebrity clout, and practical concerns like the need to compress complex research into a few minutes of airtime.

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