Maybe it’s nothing new but it seems to me that there’s an ever increasing lack of scientific literacy in government and I worry about the impact that this will have on all of us. Just a few recent examples of this illiteracy include a relatively innocuous twitter post by the Ministry of Health in Ontario touting the supposed benefits of consuming dark chocolate. This despite the fact that research does not support this assertion, nor did the article that the post was linked to.
Another more worrisome example was a recent op ed by Thomas Mulcair (former leader of the federal NDP) in support of naturopaths because:
In today’s world, people are more informed than ever and you need a compelling reason to remove their right to make decisions for themselves. There are many alternative medical practices, old and new, that are providing treatment, comfort and relief to patients but that cannot be fully explained by science. They now need to be regulated in the public interest, not prosecuted on the pretense of protecting the public.
*Major cringe*. Sorry, but protecting the public is not a pretence. Given the misleading use of the title “doctor” among professions such as naturopathy and chiropractice (is that a word?) it is increasingly important that the public be protected from charlatans offering pseudoscience disguised as medical treatments. Yes, there are certainly problems with modern medicine but that doesn’t mean that the government (who is to blame for most of these problems through lack of doctors, short appointments, and long wait times) should ease the way for Canadians to access unproven treatments.
Democratic candidate Andrew Yang tweeted out his excitement about appearing on the Doctor Oz Show saying that he had “made a lot of people smarter about their health”. Even though Oz has done more harm than good at this point with his enthusiastic promotion of countless “miracle cures” and other quackery.
The most alarming example I can think of is the recent bill in the States forcing women to have ectopic pregnancies reimplanted in the uterus. Something that is impossible. Rep John Becker who was responsible for the anti-abortion bill, upon facing huge backlash from the public and the medical community, admitted that he hadn’t consulted with doctors on the matter and “how was he supposed to know” that such a procedure was impossible. Which I think pretty much sums up the whole problem. How are our government officials, representatives, departments, etc supposed to have knowledge about topics on which they have no education or experience? Well, this is why they have staff who they should be using to do research before they go drafting harmful and impossible laws, writing dangerous op eds, and shooting off inaccurate social media posts. If somehow by some miracle anyone working at any level of government is reading this post, I implore you, have your staff (or even reach out yourself) consult with experts in whatever field you are hoping to legislate or promote before you do anything public. And please know that registered dietitians are the professionals you want to consult when you are doing anything related to nutrition. Federally in Canada you have access to dietitians through Health Canada or Dietitians of Canada. In Ontario you have public health dietitians who would be more than happy to be consulted through ODPH (Ontario Dietitians in Public Health).