Every day, claims are made about, for example, the effects of drugs, specific foods and cancer risk, risks and benefits of moderate alcohol consumption and about a magic diet pill, nutrient or exercise plan. These claims are made by journalists, health care professionals, marketing companies, governments, researchers and by family and friends. Unreliable claims can lead to poorly informed choices, under- or over-use of things we might do to improve or maintain our health and unnecessary waste and human suffering.
iHealthFacts is a resource where the public can quickly and easily check the reliability of a health claim circulated by social media. We hope this information will help people think critically about health claims and make well-informed choices.
Each health question is assigned to a named member of our research team who undertakes the preliminary research and writes the first draft of the response to the question we are tackling.
When we want to check if something is true or not, we need to look for evidence that supports or disproves it. To do this, we often need to find the original source of the claim and see if there is any research to back it up. Sometimes, we might not find the perfect study that answers our question, but we will tell you this and acknowledge any gaps or uncertainties. We can then suggest that more research is needed to fill these gaps and help us better understand the issue.
We have a system for choosing the best type of study to answer a question. We use this system to pick the study that will give us the most useful information to help us answer the claim/question.; that is, the type of study that is best suited to answer the question we’ve been asked. Sometimes, the ideal study has not been conducted.
Usually the best type of study design to help inform decisions is a systematic review of studies . If these are not available, we search for individual studies. Where appropriate, we also search for statements from health agencies. We use the information from those studies to create our draft answer. This also includes an evaluation of how good and certain the information from the studies is. All of this helps increase the accuracy and reliability of our answer. After we investigate a health claim and write a draft of our answer, another researcher checks it independently. Then, a healthcare expert and a member of our team who represents the public also review the answer. Finally, our health journalist gives it a final review to make sure everything is easy to understand. We do all of this to make sure our information is trustworthy and helpful for everyone.
Starting on March 1st, 2023, we will be checking the quality of the studies we use to create our answers. We will be using special tools that help us evaluate the studies in a fair and consistent way. We do this to help make sure that the information we provide is reliable and helpful for everyone who reads it.
iHealthFacts will answer health claim questions that are submitted by the public. iHealthFacts cannot offer medical advice to an individual or reply to individual questions. Newly submitted questions are prioritised based on:
- How often the question is asked
- How serious the consequences might be if someone acted on the claim
- The potential for the spread of the claim and the potential for improving health decisions by answering the claim
While we can’t answer every claim submitted, we will do our best to answer as many as possible.
We aim to provide robust, unbiased information. We hope this information will help members of the public think critically about health claims and make well-informed choices.
We endeavour to ensure all data and text is accurate at time of posting to iHealthFacts.ie. However, we recognise the importance of post-publication clarifications and corrections. All post publication changes will be posted online as updates.