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The Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (CDC) Bloggers Join The Better Health Team!

It is with great pleasure that I welcome our CDC colleagues to the Better Health blog team. Going forward, Better Health will feature content from the CDC blogs on a weekly basis, and our collaborative efforts will be highlighted on the CDC blog pages as appropriate.

Better Health and the CDC share a common mission: to reach as many Americans as possible with scientifically accurate, trustworthy, and helpful medical information. As social media platforms (such as blogs, Twitter, and Facebook) become a gathering place for people seeking health information – it is important for experts to be able to provide content through these channels. The CDC’s relationship with Better Health is an excellent example of a public-private partnership that can magnify reach and relevance.

By becoming a content partner with Better Health, the CDC joins a prestigious international team of physicians, nurses, health experts and patient advocates, including notable organizations such as the American College of Physicians blogs, Harvard Health Publications, Diario Medico, Healthline, the Center For Advancing Health, and the Columbia University Department of Surgery. Read more »

Weight Loss Tips For ABC News

The weather is heating up, and soon most of us will be back in shorts and t-shirts…  and worrying about looking good in our dreaded bathing suits. I had the opportunity to offer some evidence-based weight loss and fitness tips to ABC News in Washington, DC. You can view the clip or read my summary below:

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Mission Impossible: Getting A Medical License In California

I first applied for a license to practice medicine in the state of California on July 9, 2008. I was licensed on March 3, 2011 — a whopping 967 days after they first received my application. I haven’t had a problem getting a license in any other state, and I am licensed in six of them. Just to give you a sense of how long it usually takes to process the paperwork for a medical license, Maryland completed mine in under three weeks. So what’s going on in California?

Dr. Val’s Experience

I think the best way to tell this story is with a timeline, and let the facts speak for themselves. I know this represents just one physician’s experience (namely mine), so results may vary:

July 9, 2008 – The Medical Board of California (MBC) received my licensure application and my checks for $493 (for fingerprint and processing fee) and $805 (initial licensing fee), which were cashed soon thereafter.

Sept 29, 2008 – I received a letter in the mail stating that there were four items missing from my application. Two of these four items were already included in the Federation Credentials Verification Service (FCVS) packet they had received from me. The other two items were requests for residency program directors to write letters to support the forms that they had already filled out on my behalf. I immediately requested these letters, and even though I should not have needed to send additional copies of items from the FCVS packet, I did so as well.

December 3, 2008 – I received a letter in the mail from the MBC, stating that there was an additional fee of $25 now required for physicians whose licensure applications were postmarked after December 31, 2008. This obviously didn’t relate to me, but the letter reminded me to follow up with the board to make sure that they had received the four items from the Sept 29th letter. I sent the licensing program administrator an email and left a voice message for follow-up purposes. He gave no response. Read more »

Book Review: “Tabloid Medicine: How The Internet Is Being Used To Hijack Medical Science For Fear And Profit”

This was the Guest Blog at Scientific American on February 23rd, 2011. 

In his new book, “Tabloid Medicine: How The Internet Is Being Used to Hijack Medical Science for Fear and Profit,” Robert Goldberg, PhD, explains why the Internet is a double-edged sword when it comes to health information. On the one hand, the Web can empower people with quality medical information that can help them make informed decisions. On the other hand, the Web is an unfiltered breeding ground for urban legends, fear-mongering and snake oil salesmen.

Goldberg uses case studies to expose the sinister side of health misinformation. Perhaps the most compelling example of a medical “manufactroversy” (defined as a manufactured controversy that is motivated by profit or extreme ideology to intentionally create public confusion about an issue that is not in dispute) is the anti-vaccine movement. Thanks to the efforts of corrupt scientists, personal injury lawyers, self-proclaimed medical experts, and Hollywood starlets, a false link between vaccines and autism has been promoted on a global scale via the Internet. The resulting panic, legal feeding frenzy, money-making alternative medicine sales, and reduction in childhood vaccination rates (causing countless preventable deaths), are sickening and tragic.

As Goldberg continues to explore the hyperbole behind specific “health threats,” a fascinating pattern emerges. Behind the most powerful manufactroversies, lies a predictable formula: First, a new problem is generated by redefining terminology. For example, an autism “epidemic” suddenly exists when a wide range of childhood mental health diagnoses are all reclassified as part of an autism spectrum. The reclassification creates the appearance of a surge in autism cases, and that sets the stage for cause-seeking.

Second, “instant experts” immediately proclaim that they have special insight into the cause. They enjoy the authority and attention that their unique “expertise” brings them and begin to position themselves as a “little guy” crusader against injustice. They also are likely to spin conspiracy theories about government cover-ups or pharmaceutical malfeasance to make their case more appealing to the media. In many cases the experts have a financial incentive in promoting their point of view (they sell treatments or promote their books, for example).

Third, because mainstream media craves David and Goliath stories and always wants to be the first to break news, they often report the information without thorough fact-checking. This results in the phenomenon of “Tabloid Medicine.” Read more »

Homeopathy: Why Is The Canadian Government Regulating A Scam?

Regular readers of the Better Health blog are familiar with the shoddy science behind homeopathy (an outdated system of “medical” treatment that relies on water dilution and shaking to ‘”strengthen” the effects of drugs). But because homeopathic placebos have been marketed so successfully (even receiving paid endorsements from hockey teams), the Ontario government has decided to regulate homeopathic practices.

In this terrific news exposé, reporters ask if it’s appropriate for the government to regulate health scams. In doing so, are they not lending credibility to modern-day snake oil? Check out these videos and let me know what you think. Is there a roll for government in regulating homeopathy?

Part 1:  

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Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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