UNESCO disinformation

UNESCO unveils action plan to regulate social media platforms to fight disinformation

The first World Conference of Regulators to be held in mid-2024; to mobilise dedicated funding, including one million Euros pledged by the European Commission. While unveiling an action plan to tackle online disinformation on November 6, 2023, UNESCO made a strong comment on the escalating proliferation of online disinformation and hate speech becoming “a major […]

Diagnostics

Diagnostics, data and digital technology

Connected diagnostics not only streamlines healthcare workers’ access to accurate data in private and public settings but also leverages technological advancements to integrate documentation of diagnostic and treatment goals Imagine this – you go to your local doctor in a primary healthcare facility in a tier-2 city to get help with this niggling cough that […]

Mental Health

Explainer: The toll of war on mental health

The mental scars of undergoing trauma, or even witnessing traumatic content online, can have lasting effects over one’s psyche that manifest in different ways. As the world navigates through another gruesome geo-political conflict, it’s important to remember that wars not only have devastating effects on economies and societies, but also on the lives of people. […]

Emergency contraceptive pills

Fact-check: Emergency contraceptive pills are safe

While they can be a powerful tool of women empowerment, there’s an urgent need for public awareness and access, coupled with efforts to promote gender equality in the reproductive sphere. A viral tweet – with three million views at the time of this writing – on the perils of using emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs) claims […]

Explainer: Why long work hours are injurious to health

From cardiovascular disease and heightened stress levels, to depression, anxiety and compromised sleep quality, the impact of the hustle culture on physical and mental health is scientifically established.

sweet salad

Fact-check: Sweet salads don’t impact masculinity

The association of sweets with femininity has historically led to a stigma against male consumption of sweets. However, there is no evidence to support these claims. If a viral cartoon image being circulated on social media is to be believed, it’s important to keep men away from “sissy salads”. Sweetness and “masculinity”, supposedly, don’t go […]

AI

AI can perpetuate harmful, debunked, racist ideas in healthcare: Study

A recent study highlights the potential dangers of integrating Large Language Models in healthcare systems without addressing inherent biases. A recent study published on npj Digital Medicine (Nature) highlights the potential dangers of integrating Large Language Models (LLMs) in healthcare systems without addressing inherent biases. At a time when artificial intelligence (AI) is increasingly getting […]

The Deadly Rise of Anti-Science

Rise of anti-science movement claims millions of lives, warns researcher

In his book ‘The Deadly Rise of Anti-Science: a Scientist’s Warning’, Peter Hotez notes that health misinformation is organised, well-financed, and politically motivated. ‘The Deadly Rise of Anti-Science: a Scientist’s Warning’ by Peter Hotez, Dean for the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine Houston, TX, USA, is essential reading for out […]

Nipah-Virus

Debunking 5 myths on Nipah Virus

In the digital age, information spreads like wildfire, often faster than the truth can catch up. While the world is grappling with various challenges, the Nipah virus has emerged as a cause for concern. Nipah virus, named after the Malaysian village where it was first identified in 1999, is a zoonotic pathogen, which means it […]

First Check Diaries by Tracey Nomatter Ruzengwe

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by science and the way it explains the functioning of the human body. During my high school days, I had a keen interest in biology, which helped me score A grades, both at ordinary and advanced levels. Later, this passion influenced my choice of […]

Vitamin-C

Fact-check: Vitamin C can’t ward off the flu

Vitamin C has long been of interest to medical experts and researchers for its role in supporting the immune system and its potential in preventing and treating infections. As the cold and flu season approaches, many individuals arm themselves with a familiar defense: pills, powders, and various forms of vitamin C. Does vitamin C actually […]

AI

Explainer: How AI spreads health misinformation

AI-driven algorithms on social media platforms and websites often recommend content that promotes unproven treatments, conspiracy theories, and false information. As artificial intelligence (AI) continues to permeate our lives, a growing concern has emerged – the spread of misinformation, particularly in healthcare. Misinformation, fueled by AI, is a pressing issue that threatens the credibility of […]

Nipah-virus-infection

Nipah virus infection: 10 facts

It’s important to be informed about the infection; don’t be swayed by fear mongering and misinformation. By First Check team Nipah virus infection is suspected to be the cause of two recent deaths due to fever in Kozhikode, Kerala. While the suspicion can only be confirmed once the test results from the National Institute of Virology […]

Ashwagandha

Fact-check: Want to become taller? Ashwagandha is not the answer!

Height is primarily determined by genetics, and the growth plates in the human body close after adolescence. If viral videos on YouTube are to be believed, ashwagandha – also known as Withania somnifera, an evergreen shrub used in Ayurvedic medicine – has the ability to increase one’s height. You can see some of the videos (in Hindi) here, here, […]

Papaya-seeds

Fact-check: Papaya seeds not for contraception, inducing menstruation, or improving hormonal balance

Studies suggest that it’s best not to consume papaya seeds in any form. A viral video on Instagram claims that papaya seeds have myriad health benefits, including acting as a natural contraceptive, inducing menstruation, and reducing hormonal imbalance. However, there’s no scientific evidence to back any of these claims. While papayas are rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, and […]

HPV vaccination

Case for more HPV vaccination in India

Free school-based HPV vaccine program was introduced in Australia in 2007 for all girls, and this has resulted in a 92 percent reduction in HPV types responsible for almost 75 percent of cervical cancer Cervical cancer is a preventable disease. It is also curable if detected early and adequately treated. It is the fourth most frequent […]

Dr-Cyriac-Abby-Philips-X-account

The curious case of The Liver Doc & how it can impact health misinformation

Dr Cyriac Abby Philips’ X account was recently suspended, following an interim injunction order by an Indian court for defaming a multinational personal care and pharmaceutical company. He had it coming, says a colleague, as we discuss the suspension of Dr Cyriac Abby Philips’ X (twitter) account — @theliverdr. Last week, a civil court in […]

bananas-and-milk

Fact-check: No harm in consuming bananas and milk together

They are good additions to support post-workout recovery for muscle and tissue repair. Is consuming milk with bananas bad for your health? The internet seems divided on the issue, even as many consider the combination to be a powerful post-workout meal. Bananas are an excellent source of energy and potassium, while milk provides a boost of proteins and calcium. […]

Hypertension

Hypertension affects one in three adults globally: WHO global report on hypertension

The first-of-its-kind, comprehensive analysis finds that currently, only one in five individuals with hypertension has their condition under control. Strengthening hypertension control programmes is crucial.  The World Health Organization (WHO) recently unveiled a first-of-its-kind report highlighting the devastating global impact of high blood pressure, a pervasive health issue often referred to as the “silent killer”. […]

weight-gain

Fact-check: Dietary choices, physical activity not the only determinants of weight gain

Maintenance of healthy body weight is also affected by one’s genetics, developmental history, physiology, age, environment, ethnicity, and social background. The magic weight loss formulas and quick fixes ride on the popular belief is that the dynamics of weight gain and loss revolve around the simple concept of calories consumed versus calories expended. Although it […]

biodiversity-and-mental-health

Fact-check: The link between biodiversity and mental health

There’s an urgent need to prioritise the health of our ecosystems, not only for the preservation of biodiversity, but also as a public health measure of global importance.  In recent years, a growing body of scientific evidence has shed light on the intricate connection between biodiversity and mental health. In marginalised communities, grappling with the […]

Irradiated-foods-1

Fact-check: Irradiated foods are not radioactive

During irradiation, gamma rays, x-rays, or high-energy electrons pass through the food, destroying or inactivating bacteria and viruses that cause foodborne illness. The recent news of Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and three Cabinet ministers eating a meal that included fish sashimi harvested off the shores of Fukushima has garnered worldwide attention. The Japanese government […]

First Check Diaries by Dr Arulchelan Sriram

Have you heard the popular folktale about Akbar and Birbal, the Mughal emperor and his ingenious advisor, that beautifully captures the human tendency to give (often useless, sometimes harmful) health-related advice? Birbal solicited opinions from onlookers as he stood at a crossroad with a bandaged hand. By noon, he had a long list of advisors, […]

Menopause

Menopause: Shining light on vital facts

Numerous symptoms attributed to menopause often occur in the perimenopausal phase that encompasses years preceding the final menstrual cycle. The time that marks the end of a woman’s menstrual cycles, aka menopause, is often shrouded in mystery and unscientific narratives. It is important to shine light on the vital facts so that women have access […]

plastic-food-containers

Fact-check: Can the use of plastic food containers cause cancer?

The safety of storing food in plastic containers, typically, depends on the type of plastic and its intended use. When the question is about the safety of storing food in plastic containers – a common practice in many households – there is a growing sense of uncertainty. This can be attributed to the lack of […]

conjunctivitis

Fact-check: 5 common myths about conjunctivitis

Dr Vijitha S Vempuluru, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Ophthalmology, AIIMS Bibinagar, Telangana, India, helps set the record straight. India is currently witnessing the outbreak of a highly contagious eye infection called conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye. While government health agencies and medical professionals are actively engaged in raising awareness about the condition, there are […]

cholesterol

Explainer: What causes high cholesterol?

Cutting down on the consumption of processed foods and processed meats, such as sausages, bacon and hot dogs, can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. A recent report by the World Health Organization, conducted in partnership with the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations, has highlighted a substantial increase in the consumption of highly […]

drinking water

Fact-check: Higher water intake doesn’t assure weight loss

Overhydration can lead to water poisoning, intoxication, or disruption of brain function. By Florica Brahma It is commonly believed that drinking more water can help one lose weight faster. While it may help reduce calorie intake – as you feel fuller after consuming water – weight loss is not guaranteed. Currently available scientific evidence about […]

Alkaline water

Fact-check: Alkaline water can’t cure liver and kidney failure

While there are several claims made about the health benefits of alkaline water, medical research has yielded mixed results. A viral video (in Hindi) on Facebook claims that alkaline water made from vegetables can cure liver and kidney failure as well as several gastrointestinal problems. The video, which has garnered over 30 million views, suggests mixing ginger, […]

Mis Information

A good start: YouTube’s long-term vision for medical misinformation policies

The platform will streamline existing guidelines to fall under three categories – Prevention, Treatment, and Denial. By First Check team  As the threat of health misinformation continues to loom large across the globe, YouTube recently announced its long-term vision for medical misinformation policies on the platform. The video platform will start by removing content that […]

Explainer: What BMI can and cannot tell you about your health

Ideally suited for population-level studies, describing obesity by BMI can result in inaccurate assessment of adiposity. By Florica Brahma The Body Mass Index (BMI) is a metric system used to calculate body fat percentage by dividing one’s weight in kilograms by one’s height in meters squared. BMI = kg/m2. It was first introduced by Belgian […]

veganism

Fact-check: Debunking 3 myths about veganism

Proteins are not only found in meat and dairy products, but also in plant-based diets. As the world continues to tackle the growing challenges of climate change and global warming, veganism has emerged as a popular lifestyle choice. However, there are many misconceptions that prevail regarding vegan food choices. Here is a look at some […]

malnutrition

Kwashiorkor 101: Severe malnutrition common in developing countries

Distinguished by a profound lack of protein, this condition leads to fluid retention and an enlarged, distended abdomen. It is characterised by a fatty liver. Kwashiorkor, a form of edematous malnutrition, is trending on the internet. Here’s a quick look at what the disease entails and some common myths associated with the condition. “Kwashiorkor represents […]

health misinformation

Online harassment deters doctors from fighting health misinformation on social media: Study

We need comprehensive anti-online harassment tools and how-to guides designed for health workers in order to protect and equip them to combat the public health threat. From being called “The devil’s agent” to getting death threats on social media, Dr Ahmad Firdaus Mohd Haris, a practicing medical doctor based in Malaysia, has been the victim […]

Almonds

Fact-check: Almond skins do not cause cancer

The skin of almonds is rich in fibre due to the presence of polyphenols that act as protective agents against cardiovascular diseases and cancers. A video on Facebook, with over 3 million views, featuring Jagdish Vasudev, popularly known as Sadhguru, claims that almond skin contains carcinogenic chemicals. People should consume almonds only after adequately soaking […]

Silver Linings

Movie Review: Silver Linings Playbook has a silver lining

Even as the film highlights mental illness and its struggles, it falls short of an accurate portrayal of bipolar disorder and anger management. Silver Linings Playbook, a 2012 American romantic comedy-drama film written and directed by David O Russell, is based on Matthew Quick’s 2008 novel that goes by the same title. It has been […]

ADHD

Explainer: Understanding ADHD

A common neurodevelopmental disorder, it calls for comprehensive understanding for effective management. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects both children and adults. It is characterised by difficulties in inhibiting irrelevant stimuli for sustaining attention, stopping hyperactivity, and avoiding impulsive behaviours. It can significantly impact an individual’s daily functioning, academic performance, work productivity, […]

First Check Diaries by Tej Kumar

Have you heard of the condition where people find it hard to meet and interact with new people? It’s not about being shy or an introvert; the condition is called Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). As someone who has been coping with SAD for a while now, I was pleasantly surprised by my recent experience at […]

diabetes

Fact-check: It’s time to rethink diabetes myths

Dr Maulik Patel, First Check member and consultant physician from Gujarat, India, helps debunk 5 myths associated with diabetes. Diabetes is a complex and chronic health condition. Often, comprehending the factors that contribute to or regulate blood sugar levels can be challenging. Therefore, misinformation about diabetes tends to proliferate.  Dr Maulik Patel, First Check member […]

ChatGpt

Combatting health misinformation in the age of ChatGPT

Questions you can ask to ascertain whether the health information given by ChatGPT is accurate and reliable. Picture this: You are in search of a cure for sinusitis. Instead of checking with your doctor, you ask ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence (AI)-powered chatbot, whether antibiotics can help. Voila! You have the answer, with a complete list […]

hysterectomy

Explainer: Making informed decisions about hysterectomy

Depending on the individual case and the underlying condition, the uterus and other reproductive organs such as the cervix, ovaries, and fallopian tubes may need to be removed. Hysterectomy is a surgical procedure that entails the removal of the uterus, which is the organ where a baby grows during pregnancy. Depending on the individual case […]

First Check

First Check bags Global Fact Check Fund award

IFCN awarded 35 organisations serving 45 countries with $25,000 each to strengthen the impact of their fact-checking projects. The International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) on Thursday announced grant recipients from the Global Fact Check Fund’s BUILD phase, which aims to help fact-checking organisations scale or upgrade their online presence. First Check, DataLEADS’s flagship health fact-checking initiative, […]

Xeroderma pigmentosum

Fact-check: Xeroderma pigmentosum does not cause one’s skin to melt

XP affects the body’s ability to repair DNA damage caused by UV radiation from the sun. However, it does not cause dramatic changes in the skin as claimed on social media. A Facebook post claims that people in a village in Araras, Brazil, “melt away” due to a disease called Xeroderma pigmentosum (XP). The post […]

sinusitis

Fact-check: Antibiotics are not always needed to treat sinusitis

Dr Deepak XX, an ENT specialist at Civil Hospital, Rohtak, Haryana, India, helps debunk common myths about sinusitis. Sinusitis is a common condition wherein the tissue lining the sinuses (air-filled spaces within the bones between one’s eyes, behind the cheekbones, and in the forehead) becomes inflamed. Despite its prevalence across socio-economic sections of the society, […]

postpartum depression

Explainer: What is postpartum depression?

It can cause various physical, emotional, and behavioural symptoms. Treatment may include psychotherapy, medication, or both. Postpartum depression (PPD) is a type of depression that affects some women after giving birth. Also called “baby blues”, it can occur anytime within the first year after delivery; it usually starts within the first few weeks. PPD can […]

Tully

Movie review: Tully is an honest exploration of postpartum depression

The captivating movie dives deep into the rollercoaster of postpartum depression and many struggles of motherhood. Tully, a 2018 comedy-drama film, tells the story of Marlo, a mother of three (including a newborn), who hires a night nanny to help her cope with the challenges of parenthood. The film is based on the personal experience […]

Clove oil

Fact-check: Clove oil may provide temporary relief from toothache, but it can be toxic.

Using dried clove or clove oil may induce liver harm, acute infection, and gum discomfort. Clove oil, an aromatic essential oil obtained from clove plants, is a popular home remedy for toothaches. From Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine practitioners to social media influencers, there’s no dearth of people who consider cloves to be a natural remedy […]

Diapers infertility

Fact-check: Diapers don’t cause infertility in male infants

Sperms are not produced until adolescence, and any potential effects from wearing diapers are likely to have dissipated by that time. Aarizo Jan, a new mother from Budgam district in Kashmir, India, was advised by her grandmother-in-law to avoid using diapers for her infant boy. She was warned that it could cause reproductive health issues […]

Skin donation

Fact-check : 5 prevalent myths about skin donation

Dr Maneesh Singhal, Professor, and Head of the Department of Plastic Surgery at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, India, helps debunk common misconceptions about skin donation. Skin donation, once a seemingly sci-fi concept, has now become a crucial aspect of modern medicine. However, there are some common myths surrounding skin donation […]

Book review

Book review : Lady Doctors is an inspiring read

From fighting societal norms to improving access to healthcare and innovations in medicine, the ground-breaking work of women in medicine deserves more credit.  If the odds are stacked against you, the world seems unfair, or reality too bleak, Lady Doctors by Kavitha Rao is the dose of inspiration I strongly recommend. Published in 2021 by […]

smoking

Smoking: Myths vs facts

A scientific look at six common smoking narratives to sift the many myths from facts. The myths about smoking are so widespread that it is often difficult to recognise them. We accept them as facts because everybody seems to believe so. It’s time we take a scientific look at these common smoking narratives in order […]

pandemic

Fact-Check: Bill Gates hasn’t scheduled the next pandemic in 2025

SEERS is a fictitious disease created for a pandemic-simulating exercise that was held in Brussels, Belgium, in October 2022. The next pandemic will hit us in 2025, claim several social media posts on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. The videos warn that an infection called Severe Epidemic Enterovirus Respiratory Syndrome (SEERS) will cause a public health […]

Menstrual Hygiene

Menstrual Hygiene: Debunking 5 common myths

Dr Shehla Jamal, a menstrual health expert from New Delhi, and Dr Naima Afreen a gynecologist from Azamgarh, India, help sift facts from fiction. World Menstrual Hygiene Day is observed on the 28th day of the fifth month of the year. However, efforts to spread awareness about this important issue must continue through the year. […]

deworming pill

Fact-check: Kids can be given deworming pill in all weathers

Deworming tablets, such as Albendazole and Mebendazole, can be taken at any time of year, and without the imposition of any dietary restrictions. A popular old wives’ tale in many parts of India claims that children should be given deworming medication only when the temperatures are moderate. That is, when the weather conditions are neither […]

Hypertension

Explainer: What is hypertension?

This World Hypertension Day, let’s manage blood pressure better with the right information and the right approach.  For this year, the theme of World Hypertension Day is ‘Measure your blood pressure accurately, control it, live longer’. In order to do that, we need to first understand what hypertension or high blood pressure actually entails. According […]

Hypertension

World Hypertension Day 2023: Important facts about high blood pressure

Dr Ashwani Mehta, a senior cardiologist at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi, India, helps debunk some common myths regarding hypertension. May 17 is World Hypertension Day, a day dedicated to highlighting the importance of monitoring blood pressure. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can cause damage to one’s blood vessels, making them stiffer and […]

menstrual cups

Debunking 4 myths about menstrual cups, tampons

Dr Shehla Jamal, a gynecologist and menstrual health expert from New Delhi, India, sets the record straight on the safety of using menstrual hygiene products.  Despite the many benefits that menstrual cups and tampons offer, there are numerous myths and taboos associated with the products that deter menstruators from choosing them. Dr Shehla Jamal, a […]

Shaving

Fact-check: Shaving does not promote hair growth

It is a complex process influenced by various factors, such as the hair growth cycle, age, immunity, and vitamin intake. In many cultures around the world, the practice of tonsuring (shaving hair on the scalp) is a common phenomenon. Apart from the religious significance, it is widely believed that shaving promotes hair growth in infants, […]

DID

Explainer: Why there’s no reason to fear people with dissociative identity disorder

Inaccurate portrayals of people with DID in mainstream media highlight tendencies towards violent or murderous impulse, and the lack of control over the other personalities. Have you ever met someone who can be Tom one minute and Jerry the next? We are not referring to mood swings, but to a mental health condition called dissociative […]

First Check Diaries by Walter Balane

As a journalist and radio broadcaster, fact-checking has become an integral part of my work. We need to check, verify, and counter-check facts, before using them in storytelling. My fact-checking journey started in 2019, after attending a training session. Soon, I started a pilot fact-checking initiative in our community news group. This was just before […]

autism

Debunking 5 autism myths

Dr Apurva Kumar Pandya, Director of Parul Institute of Public Health and Faculty of Medicine at Parul University, Gujarat, India, shines a light on autism spectrum disorder, an oft-misunderstood group of conditions related to the development of the brain.  Autism, also known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a condition related to brain development that […]

Health Hazard

Explainer: Why long nails are a health hazard

One of the primary concerns with long nails is the risk of germs and bacteria lurking beneath them.  Long nails are a popular fashion trend among celebrities and there is a surge in the number of people who enjoy the beauty and elegance of artificial nails, such as acrylic or gel nails. While the trend […]

Hot water + pineapple

Fact-check: Hot water + pineapple ≠ cancer cure

Bromelain could be a promising therapy for colorectal cancer. However, further research is essential to confirm its efficacy.  A social media post titled ‘Defeated Cancer’ claims that hot water infused with pineapple can cure any type of cancer, Since the post first went viral in August 2019, it has resurfaced in multiple languages, including English […]

Vaping

Fact-check: Vaping not a safe alternative to smoking

There are potential long-term health risks associated with the use of e-cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes are popularly perceived as a smoking cessation tool. Unlike combustible cigarettes, vaping devices don’t emit tar, reinforcing the idea that vaping is safer than smoking. However, their efficacy and safety as a quitting aid have not yet been firmly […]

Ivermectin

Ivermectin influencer dead, but misinformation persists

Ivermectin, an antiparasitic drug, gained popularity as a means to prevent and treat COVID-19. “HAPPY FRIDAY TO ALL YOU POISONOUS HORSE PASTE EATING SURVIVORS!” posted Danny Lemoi on March 3, 2023 on his hugely popular pro-ivermectin telegram group, Dirt Road Discussions. Hours later, the resident of Rhode Island in the United States was found dead; […]

Processed food

Explainer: Why processed foods are harmful to health

Processed foods can lead people to consume more than the recommended amounts of sugar, salt, and fat, causing diverse health problems. Do you believe that packaged cereals, oatmeals, energy drinks, granola bars, flavour-infused yoghurts, protein bars, veggie chips, and so on are as healthy as home-cooked meals? If your answer is yes, you are in […]

First Check inducts four new members

First Check, the pioneering health fact-checking initiative by DataLEADS and a verified signatory of the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), has been at the forefront of battling this challenge. With the recent addition of four new members, the First Check network now comprises 53 medical professionals, researchers, journalists, and technologists from across the world.

Bridging the Gap: Making Health Information Accessible

have a question for you: What do you do when someone shares a glorious anecdote about a “miracle cure” or “quick fix” for a chronic health condition? Say, an unproven alternative therapy, sans the side effects of chemotherapy or radiation therapy, for cancer. Or, a home-made natural juice to prevent COVID or H2N3 flu. 

‘GPs have a crucial role to play’

In an email interview with Dr Siti, she sheds light on the Indonesian healthcare system’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the prevailing health myths, and more. 

Perils of misleading health information | International Fact-Checking Day 2023

During the pandemic, unproven claims prevented people from taking vaccination against COVID-19 and significantly increased the risk of spreading the virus to the community. In Sri Lanka, people strongly believe that certain herbs and traditional remedies can cure serious illnesses like cancer and HIV/AIDS. This often leads to delay or evasion of proven medical treatments, thereby causing dire health consequences. 

First Check Diaries by Jisha Krishnan

Today is International Fact-Checking Day, promoted by the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) in partnership with fact-checking organisations around the world. As a verified signatory of IFCN, First Check has been working resolutely towards making health fact-checking a part of the mainstream discourse. I have a question for you: What do you do when someone shares […]

World Bipolar Day: Raise awareness, eliminate social stigma 

World Bipolar Day is observed on March 30 every year, on the birthday of Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh — one of the most influential artists in the history of Western art. His creativity was paralleled with his mental illness and he was posthumously diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Fact-check: Home-made juices no antidote for H3N2 flu

With H3N2 cases on the rise, the internet is rife with rumours and misinformation. Can home remedies protect individuals from this virus? Can those with severe acute respiratory infections or influenza-like illnesses count on home-made juices and concoctions to fight the ailment? 

Explainer: What teeth whitening can and cannot do

Looking for an effective teeth whitening solution? Learn what teeth whitening products can and cannot do for your oral hygiene. While they can enhance the appearance of your teeth, they cannot improve oral health. Consult a doctor before using over-the-counter products, and choose professional teeth whitening for safe and effective results. Plus, discover why yellow or creamy coloured teeth are normal and not necessarily unhealthy. Read on for more insights.

World Tuberculosis Day 2023: Debunking 6 TB myths 

Debunking Myths about Tuberculosis: Can it be cured? Does it affect only the lungs? How does it spread? Learn the facts about this infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Find out how long treatment takes, if it can recur, and more. Join the movement to end the TB epidemic by 2030, a key UN Sustainable Development Goal.

Fact-check: Soursop not an alternative for cancer treatment

There are multiple videos on YouTube claiming that Graviola, also known as soursop, is a ‘cancer fighting fruit’. However, medical experts warn against the use of this popular tropical fruit to treat cancer as there is lack of clear scientific evidence to support to this claim.

World Sleep Day 2023: The importance of getting quality sleep at night

Sleep-related Google searches are at an all-time high. How can I fall asleep faster? Why can’t I sleep? How much sleep do I need? These are some of the most-searched questions. This year, the theme for World Sleep Day – a global event aimed at raising sleep awareness – is ‘Sleep is Essential for Health’. It emphasises the importance of sleep for maintaining good health.

Fact-check: Sambar cannot prevent, cure colon cancer 

Does sambar, a popular South Indian staple, have anticancer properties that could be effective in preventing or treating colon cancer? Viral social media posts seem to indicate so. However, there’s little scientific evidence to back the claim. 

Explainer: Can artificial intelligence replace doctors?

This article explores the possibility of artificial intelligence (AI) replacing doctors in the future, and whether the job of future doctors will be similar to that of drivers in self-driving cars. While AI has the potential to greatly enhance healthcare, experts argue that it cannot replace the expertise and human connection that a doctor provides. A combination of AI and human healthcare providers may be the best approach for delivering high-quality, patient-centered care.

Debunking 5 menstruation myths 

Celebrate International Women’s Day by busting menstruation myths! From debunking the notion that girls who haven’t menstruated by a certain age are abnormal, to clarifying the role of exercise and dairy products during menstruation, First Check separates fact from fiction.

First Check Diaries by Dr Safieh Shah

During the early days of the pandemic, I had immigrated to Canada and was keen to contribute my skills as a humanitarian public health scientist with global experience, in a meaningful way. I first met the DataLEADS team at a conference I had co-organised with my Medicins Sans Frontieres colleagues in Delhi, India, to de-colonise […]

The Last of Us: Can fungi cause a global pandemic?

What if a parasitic fungus became a threat to humankind’s survival? That is the scary premise of ‘The Last of Us’, a popular American post-apocalyptic drama television series on HBO. But is there any science behind this fiction?

Explainer: Why binge-watching is harmful

Sitting on the couch with some munchies and watching your favourite shows, episode after episode, without a pause, may seem like a great stress buster. You feel pleased as your brain produces dopamine (the happy hormone), and the binge-watching continues. 

Fact-check: Smoking increases stress 

Are you feeling stressed and reaching out for a cigarette? Don’t! Here’s an eye-opener. Scientific data shows that smoking makes people more tense and anxious.

Fact-check: Eating pineapple doesn’t cause miscarriage

It’s commonly believed that consuming pineapple during pregnancy can lead to a miscarriage. There are YouTube videos, with millions of views, as well as articles in mainstream media advising expectant mothers to steer clear of the tropical fruit.

First Check Diaries by John Aloyzeus Reotutar

Once a victim of health misinformation, I know from my own experience that it can lead to grave mistrust and negatively impact public health. Even before the pandemic, health misinformation has been a serious challenge in the Philippines. Whether it’s the proliferation of fake news and false information on social media platforms or misleading advertisements […]

Fact-check: Social media filters can be injurious to health

Flawless skin, bigger lips, taut jawlines, and a pointed nose. What’s there not to like about social media filters? Medical experts across the globe are seeing an increase in body-image disorders, such as Snapchat dysmorphia, characterised by the compulsive need to heavily edit one’s digital image.

Fact-check: Eating sugar doesn’t cause diabetes

Diabetes, despite its prevalence, is a widely misunderstood disease. Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disease, involving inappropriately elevated blood glucose levels.

Fact-check: Boiled Coca-Cola cannot cure fever, common cold

YouTube content creators who put out home remedies for health problems have a huge online following. A video on YouTube, for example, claims that a brew of heated Coca-Cola, honey, and ginger can help reduce body temperature as well as treat common cold.

The Mercury Project: Call for proposals

The Social Science Research Council announces USD $2 million grant for projects designed to increase demand for childhood vaccines, HPV, polio, measles, and COVID-19 in low- and lower-middle income countries. 

Fact-check: Beauty products, home remedies cannot make you fairer

It has been socially implanted that dark skin isn’t beautiful. There’s a flourishing industry of fairness products. Similarly, social media is rife with videos (examples here and here) promoting the fallacious notion that you can become fairer overnight, or over the course of a week. 

Book review: Dr Cuterus demystifies sexual health

Dr Tanaya Narendra aka Dr Cuterus does a neat 101 in her book Everything Nobody Tells You about Your Body on the human body, contraception, periods, birth control, safe sex, masturbation, pubic hair, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and everything that we are too embarrassed to talk about freely. 

Fact-check: Omicron BA.5 not ‘fatal for the brain’ 

It’s been three years since the COVID-19 pandemic hit our lives, yet the deluge of misinformation about the coronavirus refuses to subside. Recently, some ‘news’ articles in India claimed that the Omicron BA.5 subvariant can be fatal for the brain. The claim caused public panic. 

First Check Diaries by Dr Chandrika Kambam

Happy New Year! As we enter 2023, the battle against misinformation has to get stronger. In today’s era of digitalisation, information spreads at the speed of light, and misinformation spreads even faster! The media, especially digital media, has been a boon in many areas. However, disseminating misinformation has been one of its biggest banes in […]