Welcome to HillsHealth. Facts not Fads.
short history of medicine: "I have an ear ache."
2000 B.C. - Here, eat this root.
1000 A.D. - That root is heathen, say this prayer.
1850 A.D. - That prayer is superstition, drink this potion.
1940 A.D. - That potion is snake oil, swallow this pill.
1985 A.D. - That pill is ineffective, take this antibiotic.
2000 A.D. - That antibiotic is artificial. Here, eat this root.
Q. What is Hillshealth.org about?
A. It provides answers to your medical questions that are based on evidence.
Q. Which means what?
A. If you have a medical, health or fitness concern, Hillshealth will highlight only the facts of what has and hasn't been proven to work.
Q. Where do these medical facts come from?
A. Medical trials as reported in medical journals. For example, the British Medical Journal or the Journal of the American Medical Association. These trials are as close to a source of fact as you can get.
Q. And what is so important about medical trials?
A. Well performed medical trials are the gold-standard of health information, and although the quality of both medical trials and medical journals vary enormously, the same basic principles apply. Medical trials are tests carried out for either research or drug development that show how effective and safe a drug or health intervention is. The strict guidelines that have to be followed when completing a medical trial make these the foundation for all health and drug knowledge.
Q. You say that the quality varies enormously. In that case, how can one know which medical trials are reliable and which ones are questionable.
A. Rating systems exist which rank the quality of a medical journal based on the number of times a journal receives a citation. Medical Trials themselves prove their reliability based upon the type of study undertaken. The type and strength of such studies include;
1 Systematic Review of randomly controlled trials
2 Randomly controlled trials
3 Systematic Review of cohort studies
4 Cohort Studies
5 Consensus statements
6 Systematic Review of case control studies.
7 Case-control studies
8 Expert opinion
Furthermore, within each trial/study we look at issues of quality which make up the Jadad Scale. These issues include;
Was the study described as randomised?
Was the study described as double blind?
Is there a description of those who withdrew?
Was there a conflict of interest?
Was the study listed on a trial register.
At HillsHealth.org we rate the journals, the study, and the article quality based on the above criteria. From this you can decide whether the information provided should be taken with authority or treated with caution. The higher the score, the more reliable the information. We also take into account the number of participants in a study, and although the quality of the study is the principle guide to reliability, it is fair to assume that a larger number of participants indicates a more reliable result.
Q. How is the medical information delivered to the user?
A. Wherever possible we try to adopt a Question and Answer approach. What this means is that we will determine what question the medical trial is trying to answer. From this we will provide a summary of how the study was conducted and the results obtained. Where possible, the answer will be given in one of the following formats;
Yes (with confidence)
Yes (without confidence)
No (without confidence)
No (with confidence).
Q. What is meant by 'with confidence' and 'without confidence'?
A. Essentially, 'with confidence' means that the study was statistically significant, and 'without confidence' means that the study was not statistically significant. A 95% success rate is traditionally seen as the level needed to deem the findings significant. Any findings below 95% could be interpreted as down to chance, hence 'without confidence'. For example, when taken correctly the pregnancy pill has a success rate of 99% (meaning that 99 women out of 100 would not become pregnant whilst taking an oral contraceptive), and as such, this drug would be deemed successful (with confidence). However, if we were asking about the odds of dying from lung cancer in smokers (91% for men, 71% for women), then although the results are high and considered clinically significant, being below 95% would indicate that the results are not statistically significant (without confidence). The opposite applies where the results are seen in less that 5% of participants i.e no (with confidence).
Q. Is there a message here?
A; I want you to consider these final points; never believe the over-complication of magazine articles and fads, or believe those that argue from emotion rather than facts. And, you will never go far wrong if you consider simple and sound common sense changes that you are able to be consistent with.
The Health Facts
"People are told lies. There are 40 million websites and 39.9 million tell lies, sometimes outrageous lies. They mislead cancer patients, who are encouraged not only to pay their last penny but to be treated with something that shortens their lives. At the same time, people are gullible. It needs gullibility for the industry to succeed. It doesn't make me popular with the public, but it's the truth”.
Q. What are you looking for in a medical trial?
A. The most reliable medical information is always going to be published in a reputable scientific journal, with statistics that are relevant and significant, and carried out with a control group on a placebo or best available alternative. This is the gold standard of health information.
Q. Are the articles biased against complementary and alternative medicine.
A, We're not against supplements and complementary treatments any more than we're against conventional medicine, but until we can see the evidence, we are reluctant to believe any medical claims we read or hear. Now, you may be surprised to hear that evidence does exist supporting treatments such as acupuncture or reflexology. But remember, not all medical journals are peer reviewed, are not of the same quality, and not all trials are randomised or tested against the best currently available product. In short, there are no medical trials that are 100% free from error or bias, but a select few do come very close. As long as you are clear on what the evidence is telling you, and how reliable that evidence is, then you will inevitably make the right decisions.
Q. So how does this help me?
A. What we have is evidence based information to enable you to make informed decisions regarding your health. But remember, if there's an article of interest, always follow the link and read the original source. If there's anything that you don't understand then post a comment. Similarly, if theres a reporting error in the HillsHealth.org summaries, make a comment and we'll investigate.
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Although hillshealth.org is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered, we make no representations and give no warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the information. By giving you this information we are not giving any form of advice or recommendation and we do not intend you to rely upon it when making (or refraining from making) any decision. The Information is not a substitute for the exercise of professional judgement. If you are not qualified or experienced enough to make that judgement, you should take professional advice.
The site only announces scientific publications that are closely related to our main objectives. In all instances we recommend you read the source material in full.
If you have concerns, feel free to contact us.