stiff person syndrome

Explainer: The little-known stiff person syndrome

Recent Celine Dion video prompts conversations about the extremely rare neurological disorder with no cure.  Celine Dion, the Canadian singer, has been in the news recently after a video of her experiencing a “10-minute seizure” went viral online. The singer has maintained a low public profile since being diagnosed with stiff person syndrome (SPS) in […]

misinformation

FDA updates guidelines to combat misinformation on medical devices, drugs

The revised draft guidance sets out a policy to support health companies to address internet-based misinformation with tailored responsive communication.  The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has updated its official guidelines to address misinformation about medical devices and drugs spread by celebrities and online influencers. The new draft guidance, titled “Addressing Misinformation About Medical […]

LASA drugs

LASA drugs pose significant public health threat in India: The Lancet

The plethora of look-alike, sound-alike drugs are yet to catch the attention of the media or the medical community.  When a renowned academic journal calls out the “poor drug regulation in India” vis-à-vis the plethora of look-alike, sound-alike (LASA) drugs that are yet to catch the attention of the media or the medical community, it is […]

Zika virus,

Explainer: Decoding Zika virus, prevention measures

Explainer: Decoding Zika virus, prevention measures  Given that there is no vaccine yet to prevent Zika virus disease, or medicine to treat the condition, prevention is the key. With India reporting growing cases of Zika virus infection, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has issued a public health advisory earlier this month. First […]

Smoking

Fact-check: Smoking harms oral health in numerous ways

Reduced blood flow makes it tougher to detect gum disease in early stages, as bleeding gums are an early warning sign. While the risks of oral cancer due to tobacco use are well-known, many people are unaware of other detrimental effects on dental health. Research shows that tobacco use causes periodontal disease, oral mucosal lesions, […]

tobacco

WHO guideline for 750 million tobacco users seeking to quit

The first-ever clinical treatment guideline for tobacco cessation in adults recommends behavioural support delivered by healthcare providers, digital cessation interventions, pharmacological treatments.  Tobacco kills more than eight million people per year and imposes a significant economic burden throughout the world. Globally, there are 1.25 billion people who use tobacco, of which over 60 per cent – more […]

amoebic meningoencephalitis

Explainer: Why amoebic meningoencephalitis deaths in Kerala are disconcerting

This could be a result of climate change, since rising air temperatures lead to a rise in water temperatures, which are the breeding grounds for Naegleria fowleri.   The news of three deaths in the last two months in the southern state of Kerala, due to amoebic meningoencephalitis, a rare infection, is causing much apprehension among […]

sunscreen

‘Concerning to see pseudo-experts encouraging the population to forgo sunscreen’

The Ordre des chimistes du Québeche, a regulatory body in Quebec in Canada, recently issued a strong warning against the worrying social media trend.  By First Check Team As temperatures rise globally, so does the misinformation about sunscreen on social media platforms. The Ordre des chimistes du Québeche, a regulatory body in Quebec in Canada, […]

blood donation

Fact-check: 3 common myths about blood donation

Healthy adults can donate blood regularly. Not age, but health condition determines whether or not you are eligible to be a blood donor. Blood donation is equated with the gift of life. Yet several prevailing myths about this noble act often dissuade well-meaning people from donating blood. In response to reader queries, First Check debunks […]

social media

Cigarette-style warnings on social media risks to protect children: US surgeon general

Dr Vivek Murthy slammed social networks for emerging as an “important contributor” to the “mental health crisis” plaguing the youth of America.  There is an association between social media use and mental health harms for adolescents, wrote Dr Vivek Murthy, the US surgeon general, in an op-ed published in the New York Times last month. […]

semaglutide

Explainer: How oral semaglutide aids weight loss

The first oral GLP 1 approved by the USFDA for treatment of type 2 diabetes, the drug can also aid weight loss among non-diabetic population as well as protect cardiovascular health. Overweight and obesity have become a huge public health problem, leading to a gold rush to manufacture anti-obesity drugs worldwide. Among the many aspirants, […]

oral health

Palestine’s oral health crisis amid conflict, poverty: Study

Oral diseases are severely under-addressed globally, despite their prevalence and link to chronic illnesses. Political conflict, poverty, and lack of access to clean water and dental care have greatly impacted oral health in Palestine. In 2021, oral diseases in Palestine ranked just behind COVID-19 and upper respiratory infections in terms of morbidity. The 2021 Global […]

Air fryer

Fact-check: Air fryer French fries a healthier choice

Air fryers operate at similar temperatures to deep fryers, but the most significant difference between the two methods lies in the fat and calorie content of the cooked food. “Are air fryer French fries a healthier alternative to traditional deep-fried ones?” asked a First Check reader. For all those who love their French fries, First […]

depression

The journey from melancholia to depression

We now know more about the human mind than we ever did before. This has enabled us to better address, if not cure its maladies.  A recent Stanford study has identified six distinct types of depression using brain imaging and machine learning. The research aims to enhance the accuracy of treatments and reduce reliance on the […]

Challenges and strategies in combatting health misinformation in the Philippines – An Excerpt From First Check’s Coffee Table Book

In the Philippines, misinformation runs rampant, from dubious medical claims about cancer to unfounded conspiracy theories, especially exacerbated by the pandemic. As a fact-checker addressing medical misinformation, I see that the landscape poses unique challenges. Fact-checkers, especially those focused on health, often encounter resistance and accusations when debunking false claims promoted by companies peddling questionable health products. This backlash stems from a complex interplay of commercial interests and public perception. 

Myths vs Facts: Topical Use of Steroids in Dermatological Conditions

Topical corticosteroids (TCS) are essential treatments for various inflammatory skin conditions but are often misunderstood. Here’s a breakdown of common myths and facts surrounding their use, clarified by Dr. Pooja Aggarwal, Senior Consultant – Dermatology, Artemis Hospitals:

Study reveals alarming rise in global physical inactivity

A recent study found that about one-third (31%) of adults worldwide, around 1.8 billion people, did not get enough exercise in 2022. The highest inactivity rates were in the high-income Asia Pacific (48%) and South Asia (45%). In other regions, inactivity rates ranged from 28% in wealthy Western countries to 14% in Oceania.

WHO report highlights alcohol and drug impact

The recent WHO report emphasises urgent global action to reduce the severe impact of alcohol and drug use, focusing on high mortality rates and limited treatment accessibility.

bacterial infection

Japan reels under potentially fatal bacterial infection

A critical health emergency has hit Japan, resulting in high rates of infection and mortality. Japan is facing a serious health crisis caused by a dangerous bacteria called Streptococcal Toxic Shock Syndrome (STSS). This infection is making people very sick and causing many to stay home or rush to hospitals, similar to what happened during […]

Health Decisions

Making Informed and Critical Health Decisions – An Excerpt From First Check’s Coffee Table Book

Combatting health misinformation requires critical consumption of information, utilisation of reliable sources, seeking diverse perspectives and consulting healthcare professionals.  “Anecdotal evidence masquerades as scientific proof, emotional appeals bypass critical thinking, and cherry-picked data paints a warped picture of reality.” Health misinformation, as I see it, is a tangled web of false or misleading information about […]

Cellulite

Fact-check: Cellulite is normal, doesn’t need to be fixed

The cosmetic industry has capitalised on insecurities surrounding cellulite – promoting treatments that offer temporary results, at best. Cellulite, a common skin condition affecting 80-90 per cent of post-pubertal women, has been the focus of the billion-dollar cosmetic industry. Disparagingly referred to as orange-peel skin or cottage cheese skin on social media platforms, the perception […]

gestational diabetes

Early intervention in gestational diabetes key to better health: Study

The latest Lancet Series calls for the urgent need to adopt a holistic life-course approach in how we manage the disease. Managing gestational diabetes, aka gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), the most common medical pregnancy complication worldwide, early in pregnancy can prevent complications and improve long-term health outcomes for mothers and babies. Speaking at the ongoing American Diabetes […]

muscle cramps

Fact-check: Easy remedies for muscle cramps

Replenishing electrolytes like potassium and sodium, or stretching and massaging the affected muscle may help alleviate the pain.  “Does drinking water help cure cramps?” asked a First Check reader. Another query was about “the effectiveness of consuming sesame seed balls to alleviate pain during cramps”. First Check gets you the science-backed answer.  Cramping, or tightening […]

typhoid fever

Explainer: Why typhoid fever is so hard to beat

Access to clean drinking water, hygienic food, and typhoid vaccination are the best preventive measures. As urbanisation and climate change continue to add to the global burden of typhoid, the growing incidence of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) makes it all the more challenging to contain the spread of this life-threatening infection. Prevalent in many countries in […]

soaking nuts

Fact-check: Flawed rationale behind soaking nuts before consumption

Studies find that soaking nuts does not improve gastrointestinal tolerance or have any effect on phytate levels. Social media experts seem unanimous in their recommendation of soaking nuts overnight before consumption. This practice is touted to have immense health benefits, but is the claim backed by science? First Check gets you the answer. According to […]

vitamin D

Optimal vitamin D intake for disease prevention: Guideline

Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline focuses on supplementation guidance for children, the elderly, pregnant women, and those with pre-diabetes. The Endocrine Society released its latest clinical practice guideline, earlier this month, on the use of vitamin D for the prevention of disease. ‘Vitamin D for the Prevention of Disease: An Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline’ […]

pandemic

US military’s anti-vax campaign targeted Muslims to undermine China during pandemic: Report

A key part of the strategy was to amplify the disputed contention that, because vaccines sometimes contain pork gelatin, China’s shots could be considered forbidden under Islamic law, reveals Reuters investigation.  The fact that vaccine misinformation thrived during the COVID-19 pandemic is well established. The latest investigation by the Reuters news agency reveals how the […]

eccentric walking

Adopt eccentric walking to boost muscle strength, balance 

It can not only help in maintaining mobility and independence among older adults, but can also contribute to better cognitive function and help lower the risk of age-related muscle wasting. There are good reasons why walking is the preferred exercise for countless people. It’s cost-effective, it requires no special equipment or training, and can fit […]

antibiotics

South Asian countries can support PPPs to introduce new antibiotics responsibly

Given that AMR poses a significant health burden, particularly among vulnerable populations, and those with limited access to quality healthcare, India has implemented several important strategies to combat the challenge.   India faced a severe health crisis as antimicrobial resistance (AMR) claimed 297,036 lives, with 1.04 million deaths associated with it, in 2019. Bacterial infections and […]

Turmeric supplements

Fact-check: Turmeric supplements can induce liver injury

While curcumin generally exhibits safe metabolism and low toxicity among humans, unregulated supplement use can lead to harmful side-effects.  Curcumin, the biologically active component in turmeric, has been revered for its health benefits in different cultures. Widely used in Ayurveda and Chinese medicine as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and cardio protective agent, turmeric has acquired […]

stroke

High night-time temperatures increase stroke risk in older women: Study

Researchers from Helmholtz Munich and the Augsburg University Hospital in Germany found that the risk of stroke among older women is seven per cent higher on warm nights. As the march of climate change continues, notwithstanding the many climate accords aimed at arresting the progress of global warming, a recent study has added to the […]

Vaccine

Fact-check: Vaccine scars don’t imply effectiveness

Older vaccines often used live but weakened viruses or bacteria that caused localised infection, triggering an immune response. In the past, getting a vaccine often left a scar on your arm. Many people assumed that the scar meant the vaccine was working. Today, modern vaccines today don’t cause scarring. Does it mean they aren’t as […]

Shingles

Explainer: Shingles is more than a painful rash

The chickenpox vaccine is effective in preventing chickenpox as well as shingles. It’s approved for children and adults.  A clinical study demonstrating the efficacy of a vaccine in preventing shingles for over a decade made headlines in India last month as the pharma giant launched the vaccine in the country. However, awareness about the viral […]

health misinformation

When health misinformation thrives during uncertainty – An excerpt from First Check’s Coffee Table Book

By building a culture of critical thinking and evidence-based discourse, we can mitigate the harmful effects of misinformation and promote informed decision-making.  In 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, Nigeria Health Watch collaborated with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) to embark on a crucial mission to tackle the rampant […]

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism: My journey from apathy to acceptance

A personal account of battling ignorance and online misinformation that made a manageable condition worse. I was 19 when I got diagnosed with hypothyroidism. The symptoms had been present since a long time, but I didn’t take them seriously. Neither did anyone else. I remember feeling tired most of the time, gaining excess weight, having […]

brown rice

Fact-check: Pros and cons of brown rice, white rice

Brown rice contains higher levels of fibre and vitamins. However, it also has more arsenic, a toxic compound that can be troublesome for those with weak digestion. Which is healthier – brown rice or white rice? The question is often asked. First Check gets you the answer, backed by science and a nutritionist’s take.  Let’s […]

Higher intake of ultra-processed foods associated with higher mortality: Study 

A recent study involving 74,563 women and 39,501 men, all free from cancer, cardiovascular diseases, or diabetes at the outset, investigated the impact of ultra-processed food consumption on mortality. Here are the key findings from the comprehensive, population-based cohort study: 

Climate change

Climate change poses significant health challenges for kids, elders, pregnant women: Study

Nearly 2,50,000 additional deaths per year are estimated from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea, and heat stress due to climate change between 2030 and 2050. As 2023 was the warmest year on record in over 170 years, with numerous climate emergencies like wildfires, cyclones, flooding, and extreme heat, serious health complications are arising for pregnant women, newborns, […]

breastfeeding

World Environment Day: Invest in breastfeeding for a sustainable world

Feeding a baby with formula for the first six months of life can result in the emission of a quarter tonne of greenhouse gases, note public health researchers.  Have you ever thought of breastfeeding as a sustainable food source? Can it serve as a carbon offset for the formula milk industry? A group of public […]

WHO

WHO Member States set new pandemic treaty deadline

Representatives from the WHO’s 194 member countries agreed on a set of critical amendments to the International Health Regulations of 2005.  The World Health Organization (WHO) announced recently that negotiations for a pandemic accord aimed at preventing a repeat of the COVID-19 challenges are expected to conclude within the next year. During the annual meeting […]

Japanese Encephalitis

Explainer: What is Japanese Encephalitis?

The vector-borne disease spread by mosquitoes can lead to severe brain inflammation, resulting in serious symptoms like seizures, coma and even death. As India and most of Asia await the onset of monsoons after a particularly challenging summer, concerns about Japanese Encephalitis (JE) transmission during the rains are justified. Once the vector populations increase, the […]

Mangoes

Fact-check: Mangoes with black blotches may be artificially ripened 

The king of fruits, mango, has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. In India, the practice of ripening the fruit by injecting it with calcium carbide, a carcinogen, has drawn attention to the health risks associated with the artificial ripening of fruits. “Are black blotches on the surface of mangoes a tell-tale sign of harmful artificial ripening?” asked a First Check reader. The answer is yes; beware of mangoes with black blotches on the skin. 

Media

Importance of Academia-Media Collaboration in Fact-Checking – An Excerpt From First Check’s Coffee Table Book

Collaboration between universities and media organisations can significantly strengthen the fight against health misinformation by leveraging the expertise and resources of both sectors. “Educators in universities can collaborate with media organisations to build fact-checking teams.” A lot has changed since I started my fact-checking journey in 2019. Today, we have health experts who are media […]

Tobacco

World No Tobacco Day: 7 evidence-based facts about tobacco use

It’s high time we de-normalise tobacco use, given the massive price we are paying in terms of poor public health, high economic cost, and detrimental environmental effects. Tobacco addiction remains a formidable public health crisis globally, claiming an estimated eight million lives each year, including 1.3 million non-smokers who are exposed to second-hand smoke. Despite […]

World No Tobacco Day 2024 Crossword!

Dive into the clues and fill in the squares with terms related to smoking. Whether you’re a puzzle pro or just getting started, this crossword is a fun and engaging way to learn more about the harmful effects of smoking. Want more crossword challenges in the future? Stay tuned and keep an eye on this […]

hot

When summers become too hot to handle

From India to Bangladesh and Myanmar to Thailand, the relentless heat has disrupted daily life, claimed lives, and exacerbated existing socio-economic challenges. Indian actor Shah Rukh Khan’s recent hospitalisation due to heat stroke has brought much deserved attention to the severity of the heatwaves sweeping across India and the broader South Asian region. While Khan […]

Explainer: Understanding Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Currently, there is no cure for IBS. However, dietary changes, medications, and therapies can help manage symptoms. Dietary modifications involve avoiding trigger foods and incorporating high-fibre foods. Medications such as antispasmodics, laxatives, or antidepressants may also be prescribed.

Vaccination

Vaccination averted 154 million deaths in 50 years: Study

Vaccination accounted for 40 per cent of the observed decline in global infant mortality, 52 per cent in the African region, according to the WHO-funded study. Since 1974, vaccination has averted 154 million deaths, including 146 million children younger than five years, of which 101 million were infants younger than one year of age, according […]

Female genital

International Day of Action for Women’s Health: Female genital mutilation must end

More than 200 million girls and women alive today have been subjected to the practice, with more than three million girls estimated to be at a risk of being subjected to FGM annually. On the International Day of Action for Women’s Health, observed globally on May 28 every year to amplify demands for sexual and […]

Spot reduction

Fact-check: Spot reduction is a myth

Targeted exercises can improve muscle tone and appearance, but they cannot really burn fat in specific areas of the body. By Allen Joe Mathew Social media is flooded with fitness videos recommending exercises that target specific areas of the body. Whether it’s reducing belly fat or facial fat, the videos claim that spot reduction can […]

antimicrobial resistance

7,50,000 AMR-related deaths can be prevented annually: The Lancet

Enhanced hand hygiene, equipment sterilisation, safe water, effective sanitation, and paediatric vaccinations are key strategies highlighted in the latest modelling analysis. Improving and expanding existing methods to prevent infections, such as hand hygiene, sterilisation of equipment in healthcare facilities, safe drinking water, effective sanitation and use of paediatric vaccines, could prevent over 750,000 deaths associated […]

Health Misinformation

Health Misinformation Across Borders – An Excerpt From First Check’s Coffee Table Book

Health Misinformation is not a uniform phenomenon across the globe; its impact and prevalence vary significantly from one region to another. “What’s intriguing is the discrepancy between the actual prevalence of misinformation and the level of concern it generates in different regions.” It’s fascinating to see how online communities are coming together, supporting each other […]

Heat stroke

Fact-check: Heat stroke can be fatal

The body temperature rises to about 40 degrees Celsius, coupled with a severe imbalance of salts such as sodium and potassium in the body.  Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan was recently hospitalised after experiencing a heat stroke. While the discomforts associated with soaring temperatures are well acknowledged, many people are uninformed about the health risks […]

sexually transmitted

Curable sexually transmitted infections account for over one million daily cases: WHO

In 2022, there were 2,30,000 syphilis-related deaths and 6,30,000 HIV-related deaths, of which 13 per cent were children under the age of 15 years. Four curable sexually transmitted infections – syphilis, gonorrhoea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis – account for over one million cases daily, according to a WHO report released this week. The report, ‘Implementing the […]

menstrual cycle

Explainer: How the menstrual cycle impacts the brain

Advanced MRI techniques provide fascinating insights into how hormones influence brain structure across different menstrual phases. A women’s menstrual cycle isn’t just about periods; it’s a complex process involving hormone fluctuations and physiological changes. Research finds that the brain volume changes substantially during the menstrual cycle. Advanced MRI techniques provide fascinating insights into how hormones […]

Cow Urine

Fact-check: Cowwal’s Cow Urine doesn’t have FSSAI license

The product is still being sold on major e-commerce sites in India, along with the misleading FSSAI logo. WhatsApp messages about cow urine now being bottled and sold in India have been doing the rounds for some time. Recently, the Press Information Bureau of India (PIB) put out a tweet that the Food Safety and […]

health misinformation

Psychological inoculation works against health misinformation: JAMA

Just as the body benefits from being exposed to low doses of an attenuated virus to generate an effective immune response, research finds that it works the same way with the mind. Although debunking misinformation is important, the approach faces many challenges. For example, once people are exposed to misinformation, they often rely on false […]

West Nile Virus

Explainer: The spread of West Nile Virus

Most infections are asymptomatic, while some manifest as moderate fever, or severe fever. No vaccine against WNV is available yet for humans. As cases of West Nile Virus (WNV) rise in the Indian state of Kerala, neighbouring regions are on high alert. While the situation is still evolving and could cause a public health concern, […]

blood glucose levels

Fact-check: The effect of alcohol on blood glucose levels

A recent YouTube video with 256K+ views suggests that alcohol consumption can keep glucose levels “steady and flat”. Interestingly, the speaker acknowledges that it is a “devious” or unhealthy method to keep the blood glucose levels in check. 

obesity

17 steps to combat obesity and diabetes: ICMR-NIN 

The Indian Council of Medical Research-National Institute of Nutrition (ICMR-NIN) — the country’s apex nutrition authority — recently updated its dietary guidelines for Indians. The guidelines, released this month after a 13-year hiatus, recommend 17 steps to meet the requirements of a balanced diet and to prevent non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like obesity and diabetes.

Empowering Communities to Combat Health Misinformation – An Excerpt From First Check’s Coffee Table Book

In our region, one of the major health misinformation issues revolves around the rising prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) attributed to lifestyle choices and the aging population. This has given rise to a proliferation of health products promising instant cure, often without any scientific backing. The misleading claims associated with these products pose a significant threat to public health as individuals may unknowingly expose themselves to potential harm.

vitrectomy

Explainer: What is vitrectomy?

The risk of vitreous detachment increases with age, particularly among individuals aged 50 and above. Recently, Raghav Chadha, a 35-year-old Indian politician and Member of Parliament, underwent a surgical procedure called Vitrectomy in the UK. Ever since, questions about the surgical procedure have been coming up online and offline.  First Check gets you all the […]

health care

Infections associated with health care delivery represent a preventable tragedy: WHO

Publishes the first global guidelines to prevent the occurrence of bloodstream infections and other infections associated with the use of intravascular catheters.  Earlier this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) published the first global guidelines to prevent the occurrence of bloodstream infections and other infections associated with the use of intravascular catheters.  Up to 70 […]

Excess calcium

Fact-check: Excess calcium intake can pose health risks

While it may be easier to reach for a supplement, calcium from food sources does a better job of building bones. We know that calcium is crucial for the strength of our bones and teeth. But it does a lot more – helps muscles contract and relax, aids efficient blood clotting, regulates heart rhythms and […]

makeup during exercise

Wearing makeup during exercise not healthy for skin: Study

The heightened moisture retention could potentially hinder the natural evaporation process of the skin, impacting its overall health.  In the age of social media trends such as GRWM for Gym/Workout, and hashtags like #gymglam #gymglow, applying makeup before heading to the gym is a common practice. What’s more, even cosmetic companies advertise their products as […]

TB

High BP affects almost 50% of American women: FDA

Although one may not feel sick at first, if the condition isn’t treated on time, it can lead to grave consequences, and even death. High blood pressure (BP) or hypertension is often called a “silent killer” because you can have it and not know it. It is a serious disease that affects almost half of […]

protein supplements

Explainer: Why protein supplements can be harmful

Proteins from dietary sources can be equally effective in muscle building as protein supplements — without the associated risks of renal, liver and brain damage.  Fitness trainers, in most cases, explicitly ask gym-goers to start taking protein supplements. Doubts about potential side effects are easily quelled by citing personal examples of prolonged use. However, there […]

health misinformation

Fides: WHO launches new initiative to combat health misinformation

The aim is to build a network of healthcare influencers to counteract the spread of health-related misinformation on social media.  The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched a noteworthy initiative to combat health misinformation. Fides aims to build a network of healthcare influencers to counteract the spread of health-related misinformation on social media, thereby supporting […]

Onions

Fact-check: Onions won’t help you beat the summer heat

A recent video of an Indian politician talking to the media during the ongoing election campaigns has been in the news for the dubious health claim.  If an Indian politician is to be believed, the best way to cope with the scorching weather conditions is to carry an onion in your pocket! A recent video […]

Health Misinformation

Combatting Health Misinformation in Developing Regions – An Excerpt From First Check’s Coffee Table Book

With the spread of health misinformation, especially during crises like COVID-19, countries like Sri Lanka struggle, shedding light on the difficulties faced by healthcare workers who lack the necessary skills, training, and resources to combat false health information effectively. “It’s important to acknowledge that healthcare officials in most developing countries are overworked and lack the […]

Malaria vaccine

Malaria vaccine saves two million kids : WHO 2023 Results Report

The WHO’s 2023 Results Report highlights the progress made in global health, particularly the malaria vaccine’s impact, funding strategies, accomplishments, and ongoing challenges in fighting diseases worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) released its 2023 Results Report, marking significant strides in global health advancement. Among the standout achievements is the impact of the RTS,S/AS01 malaria […]

Red Line Campaign

Red Line Campaign: Spotlight on self-medication risks

The awareness campaign by the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare educates the public about the dangers of antimicrobial resistance, caused by the overuse of antibiotics without medical supervision.  Self-medication, the practice of taking medicines without prescription from a qualified medical practitioner, has become alarmingly common. Videos recommending drugs for various ailments can be […]

Mango

Fact-check: Mango & its anti-cancer benefits

Mangiferin, one of the most extensively investigated naturally occurring anti-cancer substance, is present in greater concentration in mango peel than in the pulp. It is that time of the year when most households in India stock reserves of the king of fruits, Mango. Recently, there have been increasing claims online about the anti-proliferative, or anti-cancer […]

coconut oil

Fact-check: Reducing calories in rice by adding coconut oil

Cooking rice along with any form of fat, not just coconut oil, reduces the calories absorbed by the body from the rice.  Does cooking rice with coconut oil result in the reduction of calories in the rice? The query was shared by a First Check reader after watching a video on YouTube. While the video […]

avian flu

Explainer: Can humans get avian flu?

The extremely rare event of the virus mutating such that it is able to invade human bodies, could result in a public health emergency. Globally, cases of bird flu, also referred to as avian flu, are on the rise. There’s fear that this corroborates the predictions of health scientists that the future pandemic is likely […]

AI search engines promote illegal online pharmacies: Study 

The integration of generative artificial intelligence (AI) into search engines offers exciting prospects for a more personalised and user-friendly search experience. However, a pertinent study has raised serious concerns about the associated public health risks, particularly the inadvertent promotion of illegal online pharmacies.

chemicals in food

Food safety: 5 harmful chemicals in food products

There’s an urgent need for transparent labelling, effective regulation, and greater consumer awareness to safeguard public health.  Indian spice brands have been in the news lately for allegedly not following food safety regulations in various countries. Popular products from companies like Everest and MDH were found to contain ethylene oxide, classified as a ‘Group 1 […]

Mental health

Mental health: The silent pandemic we are grappling with

With over 150 million Indians requiring mental health care services, yet only around 30 million seeking help, there’s an urgent need for education and awareness.  Mental health has always been a tricky issue. More so in less developed countries, such as India. Although the disease is like any other, it often isn’t recognised as one, […]

health misinformation

BIMLI: 5 key learnings in fighting health misinformation

The Bihar Information and Media Literacy Initiative, conducted in partnership with JEEViKA and DataLEADS, shows how media training programmes can empower young adults to navigate the digital world responsibly.  How can we equip youngsters with skills to discern and counter health misinformation? The Bihar Information and Media Literacy Initiative (BIMLI), conducted in partnership with JEEViKA […]

Turmeric latte

Fact-check: Turmeric latte can be injurious to health

The popular drink may contain lead chromate, a toxic pigment that is sometimes added to turmeric to make it more yellow, leading to serious health issues. Ever since Hollywood actress Gwyneth Paltrow has endorsed golden latte or turmeric latte, a trendy turmeric-milk drink, it has become hugely popular. But there’s a hidden danger: the latte […]

Health Information

Seeking Health Information Beyond Conventional Practices – An Excerpt From First Check’s Coffee Table Book

Social media and easy internet access accelerate false health information dissemination, demanding immediate intervention through media literacy to combat this public health challenge. “I encourage PhD scholars to delve deeper into the health misinformation dynamics and find solutions to combat it, with the support of suitable funding agencies.” Have you heard the popular folktale about […]

iron cookware

Fact-check: Using cast iron cookware cannot guarantee meeting your daily iron needs

While it can be a helpful supplement for those with mild iron deficiency, for individuals with hemochromatosis, it’s important to consult with a doctor before using cast iron cookware.   In kitchens across India, cast iron cookware has long been hailed as a culinary essential, renowned for its durability and superior heat retention. However, can it […]

World Malaria Day 2024 Crossword!

Team First Check is thrilled to present its first-ever crossword puzzle which is designed to test your knowledge and raise awareness about the important global health issue – Malaria.

Dive into the clues and fill in the squares with terms related to malaria. Whether you’re a puzzle pro or just getting started, this crossword is a fun and engaging way to learn more about malaria.

Airborne pathogens

Airborne pathogens to be called infectious respiratory particles: WHO

The latest global technical consultation report addresses the issue of not having a consistent language to describe the spread of airborne pathogens. During the COVID-19 pandemic, different groups used different words to talk about how pathogens spread through the air. This caused massive confusion. A global technical consultation report by the World Health Organization (WHO), […]

Shatavari

Fact-check: No scientific evidence to prove Shatavari can cure infertility

Limited research data is available to confirm the purported reproductive health benefits of the popular herb used in Ayurvedic medicine.  “Can Shatavari capsules cure infertility?” asked one of our readers on email. First Check delved into the available scientific research on this herb used commonly in Ayurveda. We also reached out to a medical practitioner […]

VITAMINS

Explainer: 5 vitamins, besides vitamin D, for optimal bone health

International Journal of Molecular Medicine article sheds light on the complexity of bone building, underscoring the need for incorporating vitamins A, B, C, E, and K in our daily lives. While the role of vitamin D in calcium absorption and the prevention of osteoporosis is well known, there’s little awareness about the importance of other […]

diabetes

Fact-check: Ads promote bogus diabetes cure on Indian news websites

They endorse a dubious dietary supplement and unverified drug for diabetes management, while discrediting established medications by means of fabricated reviews. Advertisements from ‘The Care Lab’ claiming to cure diabetes are bogus, finds First Check. These advertisements, seen on popular Indian news websites, lead users to dubious webpages selling unscientific treatments. The website dcarelab.com primarily […]

hepatitis

World liver day: Understanding hepatitis

The second leading infectious cause of death globally, every day, nearly 3500 people are dying due to hepatitis B and C infections.  The World Health Organization (WHO) 2024 Global Hepatitis Report, released earlier this month, highlights that the disease is the second leading infectious cause of death globally, with 1.3 million deaths per year. Every […]

metabolic health

Light physical activity can improve metabolic health in children: Study

Among overweight and obese youths, increased LPA linked with 20 per cent reduced risk of worsening hyperinsulinemia.   Light physical activity (LPA) is linked to a lower chance of developing excess insulin and insulin resistance from childhood to young adulthood. Increased sedentary time worsens metabolic health, especially in those who are overweight or obese, says a […]

gold in skincare

Fact-check: The science behind using gold in skincare products

Gold nanoparticles have antifungal, antibacterial and anti-ageing benefits. However, those allergic to gold from contact dermatitis need to exercise caution. “Does Suvarna Bhasma work for the skin?” asked one of our readers. First Check delved into research on the subject to understand the rationale behind the use of nano and colloidal gold particles in traditional […]

breast cancer

Deep inequities, underreported suffering in global breast cancer battle: Report

Lancet Commission report estimates global breast cancer incidence to rise from 2.3 million new cases in 2020 to over three million by 2040 and one million deaths annually.  In 2020, 7.8 million women were alive having been diagnosed with breast cancer in the previous five years, reflecting progress in research and cancer management that has […]

diphtheria

Explainer: What is diphtheria?

Given the global surge in diphtheria incidence, it’s important to focus on vaccination against this potentially serious bacterial infection that primarily affects the mucous membranes of the throat and nose.   By Florica Brahma The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a warning regarding the outbreak of diphtheria, a potentially serious bacterial infection that primarily affects […]

TB

India closing the gap between estimated and reported TB cases: Report

India TB Report 2024, by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, highlights the pressing need to improve the adoption of latest technology to combat the disease.  Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s annual report on the state of tuberculosis (TB) India TB Report 2024 shows significant progress in the detection and treatment of […]

Parkinson

World Parkinson’s Day: 5 science-backed facts about the disease

From its perceived confinement to motor symptoms to fears surrounding medication, common myths have hindered the understanding and treatment of the condition. Every year World Parkinson’s Day is celebrated on April 11 to spread awareness and understanding about the often-misunderstood neurodegenerative movement disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. From its perceived confinement to motor […]

eye donation

Fact-check: 4 eye donation myths debunked

The generous act of donating one’s corneas after death can enable two or more people to acquire vision. It can also be valuable for research leading to prevention or cure of blindness. Vision is one of the most cherished senses, enabling people to perceive the beauty and intricacies of the world around them. However, for […]

Cancer capital

India ‘Cancer capital of the world’: Report

Apollo Hospitals’ Health of Nation report shows a concerning surge in non-communicable diseases, which are now manifesting at increasingly younger ages across the country.    Apollo Hospitals, the largest private hospital network in India, recently released the latest edition of its flagship annual report, Health of Nation, which shows a concerning surge in non-communicable diseases […]

child syndrome

Fact-check: Only child syndrome is a myth

Rather than attributing certain behaviours to being an only child, parents need to focus on fostering positive social interactions and setting appropriate boundaries. Growing up as an only child, I often found myself at the centre of attention during family gatherings. While I cherished the moments spent with cousins, I couldn’t help but notice the […]

online information

Social cues shape perceptions of online information: Study

By acknowledging the social aspects of online information consumption, the researchers contend that we gain valuable insights into our susceptibility to misinformation.  In today’s digital age, social media platforms have become central to how we consume information. Yet, the role of social cues and source credibility in shaping our perceptions of online content often goes […]

Why health fact-checking is still important

It’s not just COVID — it’s measles, HPV, fake cures and more. Health is wealth, they say. That’s true of individuals and countries. Unless we invest in health care, and strengthen our fight against health misinformation, true progress is impossible. We need to work together and collaborate with experts to make credible, timely, relevant, understandable and actionable health information easily accessible for all.

Castor oil

Fact-check: Castor oil is not a magic pill

Contrary to what social media influencers may claim, castor oil cannot dissolve tumours, cure arthritis or detox the liver; at best, it may provide short-term relief from constipation.  A viral video on Facebook and YouTube claims that castor oil can not only prevent life-threatening diseases, but it can also help patients fully recover from them. […]

tuberculosis

Fact-check: Expert take on 6 tuberculosis myths

TB is curable, but the biggest challenge remains the general lack of awareness about the disease, coupled with poor health seeking behaviours among most people. Tuberculosis (TB) is a common, and in many cases fatal, infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis that attacks the lungs, and can affect other parts of the body too. According […]

vaginal whitening

Explainer: The hazards of vaginal whitening products

Vaginal lightening promotes unhealthy body image ideals, and reflects cultural preferences rooted in internalised colourism. While the skin-lightening industry had found a strong global foothold, several high-end spas today offer vaginal bleaching services, ranging from laser treatments to specialised peels.  A plethora of DIY vaginal lightening methods are also promoted on social media platforms.  Whether […]

SCD treatment

India gets first indigenous hydroxyurea oral suspension for SCD treatment

The country ranks second worldwide in sickle cell disease incidence, with 102,021 reported cases, particularly among certain tribal populations.  Recently, India got its first indigenous hydroxyurea oral suspension for the treatment of sickle cell disease (SCD), a genetic blood disorder. Akums Drugs and Pharmaceuticals Limited is expected to manufacture the drug at one per cent […]

paracetamol

Fact-check: The link between paracetamol and liver toxicity

Excess acetaminophen intake is the leading cause of drug-induced liver injury, one of the most common causes of liver failure.  Does paracetamol, a painkiller commonly used to mitigate fever and treat mild to moderate pain, cause liver toxicity? That’s the recurring question many readers have asked over the last couple of weeks. Based on the […]

health disinformation

Decoding health disinformation during elections

In a year when the world’s oldest and the largest democracies are going to polls, AI-generated fake news is expected to be all over the place.  Does health mis/disinformation increase or decrease during elections? Very little is known about this phenomenon. It is, however, scientifically proven that political fake news becomes rife during polls.  According […]

misinformation, disinformation

US launches Foreign Ministry Channel for Health Security to counter health misinformation, disinformation

Climate change, growing regional instability, the rise of misinformation and disinformation increase the complexity of preventing and responding to the next pandemic. The United States has launched Foreign Ministry Channel (FMC) for Health Security, making health security a foreign policy priority, and effectively addressing health-related misinformation and disinformation. This comes with the recognition that the […]

social media

Pro tips to find scientific health information on social media

Nutrition and fitness expert Layne Norton offers some sound advice on navigating false, misleading claims online.  While self-proclaimed health experts on social media platforms are some of the biggest perpetuators of health misinformation, there are also several qualified professionals, who share valuable information online on health and well-being. Layne Norton, a PhD holder in Nutritional […]

health misinformation

Lessons in fighting health misinformation from Nigeria

Beyond short-term online campaigns, proactively engage with social media influencers and equip them with the necessary tools and knowledge to counter misinformation.  While measles vaccination has seen success in Nigeria, challenges persist, especially with the introduction of new vaccines. Resistance to these vaccines often arises from misinformation spread on social media platforms. Whether it is […]

measles

Vaccine misinformation fuels measles resurgence in US

58 new measles cases reported by 17 jurisdictions, raising fears of comeback of the disease that was declared eliminated from the US 24 years ago.   In 2000, measles was declared eliminated from the United States of America. However, recent trends show a resurgence of measles cases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated […]

Fasting cannot cure cancer

Fact-check: Fasting cannot cure cancer

Researchers caution against oversimplification as autophagy has been attributed tumour-suppressive as well as tumour-promoting functions.  A viral video on YouTube (with 10K views at the time of writing this) claims that fasting can cure cancer, among many other ailments. The video, narrated in the Malayalam language, asserts that the practice of fasting, common in many […]

WHO

WHO proposes pandemic agreement, not treaty

The ninth Intergovernmental Negotiating Body meeting will be held in hybrid format from March 18 to March 28, 2024. Ahead of the ninth meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) for a World Health Organization (WHO) instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, later this month, the WHO has started an aggressive campaign on the […]

health misinformation

Why we need to collaborate to fight health misinformation

It is crucial to address issues comprehensively, combining efforts to counteract industry influences, regulate fake health products, and continue promoting awareness and education.  The collaboration between media professionals and health experts has become increasingly robust, particularly in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pervasive nature of health misinformation during the crisis highlighted the urgent […]

PFAS & BPA

Explainer: The presence of PFAS & BPA in your kitchen

These chemicals can accumulate in the body over time, increasing the risk of cancer and numerous other ailments.   We live in a world where convenience often comes at a cost. The prevalence of “forever chemicals” like per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and bisphenol A (BPA) has raised significant concerns – from exposure in drinking water […]

Japanese water therapy & weight loss

Fact-check: Japanese water therapy & weight loss

While drinking water on an empty stomach can temporarily boost metabolism, there is insufficient scientific evidence to support the dubious weight loss claims made by advocates of Japanese water therapy. In recent years, Japanese water therapy has gained popularity as a method for weight loss. Advocates claim that drinking water first thing in the morning on […]

physical & mental health

Ultra-processed foods impact physical & mental health: Study

Researchers find strong association between consumption of ultra-processed foods and heightened risk of heart disease-related deaths, type 2 diabetes, obesity, anxiety, depression, sleep problems.  A recent study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) has unveiled a disconcerting association between the consumption of ultra-processed foods and heightened risk of heart disease-related deaths, type 2 diabetes, […]

gastric issues and stress

Fact-check: The connection between gastric issues and stress in relationships

Stress, anxiety, and unresolved emotional conflicts can manifest in various bodily symptoms. According to a trending video on Instagram, there is a strong connection between the indigestion problems one may be facing and the strained relationship they share with their father. Does that mean the next time your stomach churns uncomfortably, you need to consider […]

dietary fats

Fact-check – Not all dietary fats are evil

Inclusion of a variety of nutrient-dense fats as part of a balanced diet can help individuals reap myriad health benefits, while minimising the risks associated with excessive consumption. Is dietary fat evil? That’s the question a reader asked First Check. The short answer is no. The notion that all dietary fat is evil stems from […]

ADHD

ADHD: A woman’s quest for understanding

Being diagnosed as an individual with ADHD brought a mix of emotions – relief at finally having the correct diagnosis, anger for the past dismissals, and determination to move forward.  At 22, I approached my first mental health counsellor with concerns pertaining to forgetfulness and struggles with day-to-day tasks. To my surprise, the response I […]

Paternal smoking

Fact-check: Paternal smoking, obesity can harm unborn babies

Researchers have identified notable associations between paternal factors and birth outcomes, encompassing preterm birth, low birth weight, small for gestational age (SGA), and high birth weight prevalences.  “If a man is a smoker, does it affect his unborn baby?” asked one of our readers recently. Traditionally, women are believed to have the biggest influence on […]

misleading health ads

Indian court takes firm stand on misleading health ads

The Supreme Court orders immediate ban on all electronic and print advertisements by Patanjali Ayurved. In a scathing indictment, the Supreme Court of India has criticised the Central Government for its lack of action against Patanjali Ayurved, co-owned by yoga guru Ramdev, in a case involving “misleading and false” advertisements. The apex court remarked that […]

teeth whitening

Fact-check: DIY teeth whitening treatments don’t work

Social media claims about the magic mixture of toothpaste, baking soda and hydrogen peroxide guaranteeing white teeth are not only false, but they also pose health and safety risks.  An image circulating on social media claims that a mixture of toothpaste, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide can make your teeth “snow white”. “Is it true?” […]

Turmeric is not the magic pill for weight loss

Fact-check: Turmeric is not the magic pill for weight loss

There is no robust study to support the claims on social media about turmeric tea or supplements helping with fat loss or improving liver health.  If a video on Instagram is to believed, turmeric, the spice that comes from the root of Curcuma longa plant, can help with targeted fat removal. Just like liposuction, a […]

cyanide exposures

Fact-check: Not all cyanide exposures are murderous

Estimating how lethal a dose can be is challenging, due to various factors, such as the specific compound involved. In the true-crime documentary ‘Curry & Cyanide – The Jolly Joseph Case’, available on Netflix, a toxicologist asserts, “When you come across cyanide in a case of death, first rule out murder.” While cyanide is often […]

depression

Exercise is an effective treatment for depression: Study

While walking or jogging benefited both genders, strength training was more beneficial for women, and yoga or qigong was more effective for men. A recent study, published in the British Medical Journal, finds that exercise is an effective treatment for depression, with walking or jogging, yoga, and strength training more effective than other exercises, particularly […]

malaria vaccines

Explainer: How malaria vaccines can eradicate the disease

There are two malaria vaccines recommended by the WHO, and they act against P. falciparum, the deadliest malaria parasite globally and the most prevalent in Africa. Nearly 249 million cases of malaria and 6,08,000 malaria-related deaths were recorded globally in 2022. The World Health Organization (WHO) African Region continues to bear the brunt of the […]

Working night shifts

Fact-check: Working night shifts takes a toll on one’s health

Apart from circadian misalignment and its effect on physical health, studies show that shift work sleep disorder can also exacerbate mental health issues.  “Is it really such a bad idea to take up a job that requires you to work at night?” asked one of our readers recently. When it comes to the health consequences […]

prebunking and debunking

Adopting a hybrid strategy of prebunking and debunking

We need to examine the differential impact of false information and truthful information. Is the harm caused by falsehoods offset by the dissemination of truth? Can the viral spread of disinformation and misinformation ever be completely curbed? It is a rhetorical question. We know by now that while false narratives of any kind can be […]

Misinformation

Interview: ‘Misinformation can lead to misunderstandings about scientific facts’

Dr Safieh Shah, First Check member and Canada-based senior policy scientist, talks about the power of collaboration, the prevalent challenges, and the urgency to strengthen our fight against health misinformation. “The landscape of health misinformation is dynamic and changes over time, as does social media,” says Dr Safieh Shah, First Check member and senior policy […]

protein deficiency

Explainer: The perils of protein deficiency

Poor dietary choices, food insecurity, certain medical conditions, and vegetarian or vegan diets lacking in protein-rich sources can contribute to protein-energy malnutrition. By Florica Brahma Protein is often hailed as the building block of life, and for good reason. It plays a crucial role in various bodily functions, including muscle repair and growth, hormone production, […]

AI-generated

AI-generated content cannot provide personalised medical advice: Study

While ChatGPT 3.5 and 4.0 can serve as supplementary sources for health information, a recent study underscores the need for validation and scrutiny of AI-generated content.  By First Check Team As health misinformation continues to spread across various online platforms, the reliability of sources becomes paramount. An interesting study sought to evaluate the potential of […]

climate change

Fact-check: Meatless diet can help fight climate change

About 15% of global greenhouse emissions result from livestock farming, nearly equivalent to those generated by the transportation sector. Is it healthier for the planet if humans stop consuming meat? That’s the question a reader asked First Check. After going through the scientific evidence – there’s a lot of promising research happening in this area […]

Eggs, fruits, oats

Fact-check: Eggs, fruits, oats are not unhealthy breakfast

There isn’t much nutritional value to white bread though. A high-glycemic index food, it can increase hunger and promote overeating. Instagram videos can be entertaining, but they can be misleading too. A funny video rues about the challenges of eating a healthy breakfast, given that everything, from eggs and oats to bread and fruits, has […]

global pandemic

Conspiracy theories major obstacle to new global pandemic treaty: WHO

Despite lessons that should have been learned during COVID-19, the world is unprepared for the next pandemic, be it an influenza virus, another coronavirus, or “Disease X.” A new global pandemic treaty is in the works. The motive of the treaty is to prepare the world for the next pandemic, be it an influenza virus, […]

HPV vaccination

Explainer: Why HPV vaccination is the most effective strategy against cervical cancer

The fourth-most prevalent cancer among women globally, cervical cancer has a notable impact on low- and middle-income countries.  By Florica Brahma There have to be better ways to beat cervical cancer than social media influencers faking their own death in order to spread awareness about the disease. Earlier this month, during the interim budget speech […]

Health Misinformation

Use behavioural science to fight health misinformation: Study

Latest research underscores the importance of recognising the content, tactics employed by spreaders, and understanding the motivations of those susceptible to misinformation. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the role of social media in public health has become increasingly evident. A recent research titled ‘Using Behavioural Science for Infodemic Preparedness: The Case of Vaccination […]

Leprosy

Leprosy: 3 myths that refuse to die

Despite being one of the oldest diseases known to mankind, substantial gaps in our fundamental knowledge of this disease hinder global efforts to eradicate it. Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, has been surrounded by myths and misconceptions for centuries, contributing to the social stigma attached to this ancient malady. Regardless of significant advancements in […]

vaccine misinformation

Dilute vaccine misinformation with large amounts of scientific evidence: US FDA experts

Vaccine hesitancy brings about a substantial risk to the population’s immunity against vaccine-preventable infectious diseases and could potentially lead to thousands of deaths.  Plummeting vaccination rates currently pose a major public health challenge in the United States. A recent viewpoint article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) by Peter Marks and Robert […]

thyroid

Explainer: Understanding thyroid disorders

Greater awareness empowers individuals to recognise early symptoms, seek timely diagnosis, and explore effective treatment options. January marks Thyroid Awareness Month, drawing attention to the critical role of the thyroid gland in our overall well-being. Despite its importance, many remain unfamiliar with the intricacies of thyroid function and the potential impact of thyroid disorders on […]

Bulletproof coffee

Fact-check: Bulletproof coffee no magic bullet to weight loss

While the coffee concoction can kill food cravings and give an instant energy boost, low micronutrients and high amounts of fat can harm people with chronic diseases or cholesterol issues. If the social media buzz is to be believed, there’s a new elixir for weight loss! Bulletproof coffee, also known as coffee with ghee or […]

Measles

Measles: Misinformation-fuelled vaccine hesitancy puts children’s lives at risk

The CDC reported that measles cases in 2022 increased by 18%, and deaths by 43% globally as compared to 2021.  Misinformation on vaccines, spread by a section of social media users, is contributing to vaccine hesitancy and negatively affecting public health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported a 10-year low in routine […]

weight loss

Fact-check: Consume beans for better digestion, weight loss

Instagram video is right about the positive impact of consuming beans on gut health and curbing cravings for unhealthy foods. An engaging video on Instagram talks about the positive impact of consuming beans on gut health. It further states that higher intake of beans may contribute to lesser consumption of unhealthy junk food.  First Check […]

Video gamers

Video gamers at risk of irreversible hearing loss, tinnitus: Study

Researchers note the need to consider permissible noise levels and exposure duration to determine safe listening practices. Recent research findings suggest that video gamers worldwide may be jeopardising their hearing, exposing themselves to irreversible hearing loss, and persistent tinnitus. Researchers analysed data from studies involving over 50,000 individuals and found that reported sound levels often […]

mental health

Fact-check: DIY Vagus nerve massage can’t cure mental health issues

On social media, rubs and massages that “tone” one of our body’s longest nerves have been claimed to remedy anxiety and other psychological ailments. However, it lacks robust scientific backing. There’s a sudden increase in popularity of vagus nerve massage, especially on social media. Some of the viral videos on YouTube and other social media […]

HPV vaccines

Cervical cancer awareness month: HPV vaccines are safe

While India’s Union Health Ministry is yet to take a decision on the roll-out of HPV vaccination against cervical cancer, misleading posts and videos are doing the rounds on social media channels. January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. While India’s Union Health Ministry has said it is yet to take a decision on the roll-out […]

winters

Climate change: Warm winters set new temperature records globally

Disruption of winter upsets a series of vital environmental processes that nourish life on earth.  Kashmir Valley, one of India’s coldest places, is witnessing an unusually warm winter with day temperature hovering over 15 degrees Celsius, at par with the capital city, New Delhi. In the middle of winter, spring is in the air. Trees […]

tobacco

Decline in tobacco use rates globally: WHO

Currently the WHO South-East Asian Region has the highest percentage of population using tobacco at 26.5%, with the European Region not far behind at 25.3%. The World Health Organization (WHO) tobacco trends report released earlier this week brings some good news. The world is getting closer to the voluntary target of a 30% relative reduction […]

walk

Fact-check: No need to walk 10,000 steps daily to stay fit

Research findings underscore the importance of prioritising the quality and intensity of physical activity over fixating on reaching a particular step target. The “10,000 steps a day” mantra has long been touted as the golden rule for achieving optimal health and fitness. However, recent scientific research challenges this widely accepted belief, revealing that the magic […]

A pill or injection can’t address the complexities of obesity: Lancet

Weight loss is only maintained while taking the drugs; once treatment stops, weight can be regained, and so the costs of chronic treatment, for both individuals and health systems, could be substantial. Global efforts are on to discover effective drugs for obesity and diabetes. While a simple pill or injection will undoubtedly help some patients, […]

Diet

Fact-check: No magic diet can cure it all

The hype about Master Cleanse, Mono Diet, or Mediterranean diet on social media tends to make huge generalisations and often distorts or ignores scientific evidence. Social media platforms are abuzz with popular diets that claim to offer myriad health benefits and life-changing transformation. From Frugivore, a raw food/fruit-based diet, pushed by YouTubers and their ilk, […]

Physical activity

Moderate to vigorous physical activity can help COPD patients: Study

Getting 20 minutes of intense activity at least three days a week, or 30 minutes of moderate activity at least five days a week can make a positive difference for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Exercising more, specifically doing moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA), can help people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), […]

SAD

Explainer: What is SAD?

Individuals with limited access to natural light, such as those working in windowless offices or living in areas with prolonged periods of darkness, are more susceptible to Seasonal Affective Disorder.  As winter settles in and daylight hours dwindle, many individuals find themselves grappling with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). A type of depression that typically occurs […]

walk

3 good reasons to walk more in 2024

Incorporating walking into one’s daily routine is a convenient and easily accessible health solution, that is low risk and low cost, for most people. As you make health resolutions for the New Year, don’t forget to include walking in your list. Not only is it a great way to beat the winter lethargy, walking also […]

ChatGPT

ChatGPT gives incorrect diagnoses, but holds promise

The LLM-based chatbot reached an incorrect diagnosis in 83 out of 100 pediatric case challenges, finds study.  A large language model (LLM) based chatbot gave the wrong diagnosis for the majority of paediatric cases, finds a recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics. Among the diagnoses, 72% were incorrect and 11% were clinically related but too […]

Menstrual hygiene: The health crisis we don’t talk about

Social media posts shed light on the plights of countless women in Gaza, compelled to resort to menstruation-delaying pills and makeshift alternatives due to the unavailability of menstrual hygiene products. As the Israel-Hamas war continues to intensify, social media platforms are abuzz with claims and counter-claims about the politics and people affected by the conflict. […]

Climate change

Climate change debate: putting health first

Despite the enormous global attention being paid to climate change, its fallout on health is only now being recognised Recent studies on climate change have painted a very grim picture of its immediate and long-term fallout on health. The trend has been exacerbated over the last few years during which extreme weather events have caused […]

Social media listening crucial for tackling infodemic’s impact on health: Study

There is growing evidence of the impact of the infodemic on non-communicable diseases, climate change, vaccine acceptance, and mental health, among many other health concerns. A recent study says that social listening and integrated analysis to generate infodemic insights are the first step in managing the infodemic.

Fact-checking health in 2024

Medical practitioners, fact checkers and journalists need to collaborate to make it happen As 2023 draws to a close, global health regulators are issuing warnings against counterfeit versions of Ozempic, a drug used for type 2 diabetes. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confiscated ‘thousands of units’ of counterfeit medication within the American drug […]

Rise of antibiotic resistance in Nepal

The indiscriminate use of antibiotics poses a major challenge due to the prevalence of self-medication among individuals and the sale of antibiotics by pharmacies without requiring a prescription from healthcare professionals Antibiotics are naturally or synthetically derived compounds that have targeted action in inhibiting the growth of microorganism such as bacteria, parasites or fungi. They have […]

JN.1 COVID

Explainer: How dangerous is the JN.1 COVID variant?

JN.1 was identified in the US in September 2023, exhibiting a slow rate of spread in its early stages. However, in recent weeks, its global prevalence has increased substantially, with the WHO designating it as a “variant of interest”. Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) designated the coronavirus variant named JN.1 as a “variant of […]

Lack of data is denial of rights of persons with disabilities

Without a clear understanding of the actual number and specific needs of people with disabilities, the effective enforcement of the policies remains a challenge As India takes on a global leadership role during its presidency of the G20, aiming to create an equal world and uphold the vision of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, one marginalized sector continues […]

climate

Exodus from Sundarbans: India’s climate refugees need help

The sea-level rise, frequent cyclonic storms, and disappearing islands of the Sundarban delta are creating climate refugees in large numbers. India must acknowledge them for the climate action plan before it gets late. Twenty-five-year-old Sumit Pramanik is a mechanical engineer working five days a week in Kolkata, India. Every Friday evening, he packs his bag […]

The Missing Context of Misinformation: From Supply to Demand

Misinformation isn’t a new phenomenon. For eons, our society has grappled with twisted public narratives spun by those hoping to profit—be it monetarily, politically, or ideologically. Over time, humans have evolved mechanisms to filter, question, and address such skewed narratives. But the quantum, channel, and speed of narratives, both true and false, circulating in the public […]

Meftal

Fact-check: Meftal is not unsafe for use

In its latest advisory, the Indian Pharmacopoeia Commission has stated that the painkiller can trigger DRESS syndrome, a rare but severe allergic reaction. The recent drug safety advisory by the Indian Pharmacopoeia Commission (IPC), urging healthcare practitioners and individuals to monitor potential adverse reactions associated with the painkiller Meftal, has caused much alarm, with conversations […]

mental health

The mental health fallout of climate carnage

Mental health issues could become widespread as climate change threatens to worsen and extreme weather events become more frequent, upending people’s lives Many people consider autumn to be one of the best seasons of the year. It is a delight to watch the leaves turn yellow and temperatures mellow down. In some regions, cicada courtship […]

White Lung Syndrome

Explainer: Making sense of White Lung Syndrome

While the exact cause of the outbreak is under investigation, there is scant evidence to suggest that the cases stem from a novel virus. The recent pneumonia outbreak in China has spurred numerous myths and fears about an impending pandemic. While the exact cause of this outbreak is currently under investigation, experts concur that there […]

Climate Depression

Pandemic of Climate Depression

The growing levels of anxiety connected to climate change were attempted to be quantified in research published in 2021 by The Lancet. It was found that 84 percent of the young people polled were “moderately worried” about climate change, while 59 percent of them were “extremely worried.” More than half of the respondents claimed to have felt depressed, nervous, angry, guilty, or helpless as a result of climate change, and 45 percent said that their concern over it had a detrimental influence on their everyday life.

Tackling the Misinformation Pandemic in Health: Strategies for a Resilient Society

Misinformation in the health sector has become a pressing global concern, contributing to vaccine hesitancy, endangering public health, and eroding trust in scientific expertise. Misinformation is a term used to describe false and misleading information that spreads unintentionally 1. Within this spectrum is health misinformation typically most often, which refers to information that contradicts the […]

Decarbonizing our lives

Our energy-intensive lifestyles are sending billions of tons of yearly emissions into the atmosphere When Thomas Hardy wrote his pastoral Far From the Madding Crowd in 1874, the industrial revolution that had begun in England a century ago was looming over country life. The novel was thus a nostalgic throwback to a way of life […]

dengue cases

Explainer: How climate change causes a surge in dengue cases

The transmission of dengue is intricately linked to three pivotal factors, namely, rainfall, humidity, and temperature, which can create an optimal environment for the multiplication of mosquitoes carrying the disease. As the dengue cases continue to surge, the association between climate change and the dynamics of pathogen-vector and host relationships is hard to ignore. There […]

Baba ramdev

Explainer: Why the Supreme Court of India reprimanded Baba Ramdev

This is not a debate on “Allopathy vs Ayurveda”, but about finding a realistic solution for the problem of misleading medical advertisements. When a purported yoga and ayurveda expert, known to ridicule modern medicine, is reprimanded by the highest judicial court in the country, it makes for captivating news headlines. However, it’s only when you […]

cancer trials

Critical gap in cancer trials in India, finds study

Several states in Northeast India had no registered clinical trials available to cancer patients from 2007 to 2021. A recent study revealed a disconcerting reality about India’s fight against cancer: Between July 2007 and December 2021, a mere 1988 cancer clinical trials were registered with India’s Clinical Trial Registry (CTRI). This figure pales in comparison […]

climate change

Climate discourse taking centre stage

While growing scientific evidence has raised the climate consciousness in the world, politics has also played a distinct role Over the last two years, climate change seems to have got much wider political and media attention around the world. It is apparent from the increasing frequency of statements on the phenomenon from world leaders and […]

HIV:AIDS

World AIDS Day: Debunking 4 myths about the disease

Research consistently indicates that individuals, irrespective of their age, gender, sexual orientation, or socio-economic status, can be susceptible to the virus. World AIDS Day, designated on 1st December, is a global movement to unite people in the fight against the public health issue. As per latest data provided by the Joint United Nations Programme on […]

mental health

Explainer: How food insecurity affects mental health

Recent conflicts in Palestine, Ukraine and Congo underscore how the persistent uncertainty about the next meal’s source can cause chronic stress, depression, anxiety, and sleep issues. Nearly 70 per cent of the global population suffering from hunger reside in regions marred by war and violence. Recent conflicts in Palestine, Ukraine and Congo underscore how such […]

covid-19

COVID-19 vaccine not the cause of unexplained sudden death among young adults: ICMR Study

Certain high-risk behavioural factors such as binge drinking, smoking and strenuous physical activity were found to be positively associated with unexplained sudden death. COVID-19 vaccination did not increase the risk of unexplained sudden death among young adults in India, states the latest Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) study. On the contrary, the study finds […]

BHT

Fact-check: Japan hasn’t banned BHT due to health risks

BHT is a lab-made chemical that is permitted for use as a preservative in food products within specified concentration limits. There is a widespread rumour circulating on social media platforms that Japan has prohibited the sale of popular American cereals such as Frosted Flakes and Rice Krispies. The purported reason behind this ban is the […]

umbilical cord

Delay umbilical cord clamping by two minutes to reduce premature baby deaths, says study

It allows blood to flow from the placenta to the baby whilst the baby’s lungs fill with air, potentially easing the transition into breathing. Waiting for two minutes or longer to clamp the umbilical cord of a premature baby likely reduces the risk of death soon after birth, according to two companion systematic reviews and […]

fried rice syndrome

Explainer: What is “fried rice syndrome”?

Bacillus cereus can exist on raw rice, and if it’s not stored or cooked properly, the bacteria can multiply and produce toxins that lead to food poisoning. An old viral video has resurfaced on social media platforms spreading fear and confusion about the risks associated with consuming unrefrigerated leftover foods. The video claims that a […]

Climate Change

370% rise in heat-related deaths by 2050 if climate goals unmet: The Lancet report

The 2023 report of the Lancet Countdown on health and climate change highlights how the health of humanity is at grave risk. The 2023 report of the ‘Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: the imperative for a health-centred response in a world facing irreversible harms’, released earlier this week, provides a disturbing glimpse of […]

World Diabetes Day

World Diabetes Day 2023: Cut down on air pollution to reduce blood sugar levels

About one-fifth of the global burden of type 2 diabetes is attributable PM2·5 pollution. Air pollution mitigation can play an essential role in reducing the global incidence. In the midst of alarming air pollution levels and a steady surge in diabetes cases in India, a recent study finds that poor air quality is a substantial risk factor […]

Coconut oil

Fact-check: Coconut oil cannot cure Alzheimer’s, heart diseases

First Check studied over a dozen research papers published on the subject and found no conclusive evidence to support the viral social media claims. When viral social media videos hail coconut oil as the natural remedy for various health concerns, such as Alzheimer’s disease and cardiovascular diseases, it’s important to check the veracity of these […]

Lung Cancer

Now, 50% lung cancer patients can survive beyond 5 years

Many advanced-stage patients of the disease are experiencing long-lasting remissions along with longer survival rates through the apt use of newer immunotherapies The GLOBOCAN 2020 reports the number of lung cancer cases at 2.21 million, making it the second highest contributor to cancer cases worldwide. It is also the leading cause of cancer-related deaths with […]

osteoarthritis

Fact-check: 3 myths about osteoarthritis

Globally, 15% individuals, aged 30 years or older, are affected by this degenerative joint disease. According to a recent study published in The Lancet Rheumatology, the global burden of osteoarthritis is expected to reach one billion by 2050. Based on data spanning three decades (1990-2020) from over 200 countries, the study found that 15% individuals, […]

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 […]

First Check Diaries by Saleem Samad

Almost three years ago, Bangladesh, like most countries, experienced a nightmare when the coronavirus infection turned into a pandemic. The deaths and infection rates were galloping at an unprecedented pace. Given the looming fear of death and miseries of infected patients, a significant number of people fell pray to conspiracy theories about COVID-19. It was […]

Fact-check: Acupressure no remedy for common cold

It’s that time of year again when runny noses and sore throats are a common occurrence. While medical science is yet to find a cure for common cold, there’s no dearth of quick fixes on social media.

Explainer: How is Tomato flu different from other viral fevers?

As many children are now presenting to paediatric outpatient clinics with viral symptoms, particularly fever and rash, the most common question pediatricians face is – how do we know if it’s tomato fever, dengue, Monkeypox infection, or hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD)? We are witnessing increasing panic amongst parents due to rise in new outbreaks, along with existing recurrent influenzae type illness. 

Health misinformation: Meta preparing post-pandemic policy

Facebook has been flooded with misinformation, unscientific claims and rumours about COVID-19, forcing the global technology giant to remove 25 million pieces of violative content as part of its content moderation policy. Now, as the virus is evolving, the company is considering whether it still needs to police content.

Fact-check: St. John’s wort not superior to antidepressants 

Depression is a common mental disorder that affects nearly 280 million people in the world, according to the World Health Organization. However, the stigma of the ailment, along with the many myths and misconceptions, deter patients from seeking timely care from qualified healthcare professionals.

Can men get breast cancer?

Biologically, both men and women are born with a small amount of breast tissue. It’s only during puberty that females begin developing more breast tissue, unlike their male counterparts. 

Explainer: Why excessive cleanliness may be injurious to health 

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, people have become increasingly paranoid about cleanliness. There is a growing tendency to purchase the strongest – and perhaps costliest – cleaning products, with taglines like ‘kills 99.99% germs’ and ‘kills novel coronavirus’.   

Fact-check: Milk + lemon not an instant remedy for piles

Haemorrhoids, also known as piles, is a common health problem that can lead to immense pain and discomfort. Caused by swollen, enlarged veins that form inside and outside the anus and rectum, one’s risk of haemorrhoids increases with age as well as weight gain, especially during pregnancy.

Fact-check: Ice is not the cure, it may relieve symptoms

A video on Facebook, claiming that ice can remedy a plethora of health issues, such as heel spur, swelling due to injury, migraine, back pain, cervical pain, frozen shoulders, sciatica, and indigestion, to name some, has garnered over 3.6 million views at the last count. 

Fact-check: Brain death is not a hoax 

Unscientific claims about brain death often deter people from organ donation. However, it’s important to know that there are strict medical criteria for organ retrieval.

First Check Diaries by Dr Manisha Arora Pandit

Like most people of my generation, I too have a fairly significant online presence. However, until recently I had no idea of the massive scaling effect of social media and its role in the spread of misinformation. Little did I know that health misinformation could have such a huge impact on our lives. COVID-19 exposed […]

Liver detox juice

Fact-check: Liver detoxes are futile

No super foods or special juices can detoxify a human liver. As the body’s natural detoxifier, the liver does not require any additional supplements to carry on with its normal function.

First Check Diaries by Dr Sameera Ranasinghe

I was introduced to the world of fact-checking after working in the public health sector for more than eight years. Although health promotion was one of my fields of expertise, I had no idea that there existed a systematic methodology to detect false health claims and evaluate evidence critically in the public domain. It was […]

Fact-check: Monkeypox home remedies don’t hold water

There are multiple YouTube videos on home remedies for Monkeypox, comprising neem leaves, turmeric, ginger, cucumber, honey, corn starch and the like. However, there’s no scientific evidence to support these claims.

Qian Sun

First Check Diaries by Qian Sun

It was late January, 2020. Amidst the catastrophic COVID-19 crisis in China, I landed in Delhi. Soon, I met Syed Nazakat (the founder and CEO of DataLEADS) and a conversation over coffee turned into a noteworthy collaboration that later went on to have a substantial impact on my professional life. I had come to India on […]

First Check Diaries by Abara Erim

Health misinformation, I strongly believe, must be treated like a disease because it behaves like one. My experience during the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria in 2014 fuels my passion for infodemic management. I consider it my duty to make use of every avenue to reach out to the public in order to pre-bunk and debunk […]

Fact-check: Mother’s milk no substitute for vaccines

Vaccines are the most useful and lifesaving inventions in medical history. Beware of baseless claims that try to create panic and spread unscientific views on vaccination. A viral WhatsApp forward claims that “mother’s milk, fresh air, good sleep, good organic food and adequate exercise” are the “only vaccine we need” to fight COVID-19 and monkeypox. The message […]

Dr-Ahmad-Firdaus-Mohd-Haris

First Check Diaries by Dr Ahmad Firdaus Mohd Haris

“We’re not just fighting an epidemic, we’re fighting an infodemic. Fake news spreads faster and more easily than this virus (COVID-19) and is just as dangerous.” – Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General, WHO, at the Munich Security Conference 2020. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines infodemic as too much information, including false or misleading information […]

Health misinformation: Each one spot one

With so much information at our fingertips todays, it’s hard to discern what’s true and what’s not. Can we trust everything we read on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, YouTube, Instagram and other platforms? Particularly when it comes to quick fixes and magic cures for varied health issues.

Monkeypox

Fact-check: Monkeypox is not a skin disease

A viral disease, monkeypox currently has no clinically proven cure – in allopathy or homeopathy. It is usually a self-limited ailment with symptoms lasting two to four weeks.

Dr.-Rohini-Karandikar

First Check Diaries by Dr. Rohini Karandikar

As a member of First Check, I feel like a warrior, fighting the infodemic. The pandemic showed us how people contracted,spread, or even succumbed to COVID-19 because they fell for false claims. However, COVID-19 is just one of the many catastrophes we have been battling. My fact-checking journey began in the year 2017, when I […]

asthma

Fact-check: ‘Natural’ remedies can’t cure asthma

A YouTube video claiming that home-based remedies can provide a ‘natural’ cure for Asthma, in the case of adults as well as children, has garnered over 80K views. The video basically makes four misleading claims about ways to beat Asthma, a major noncommunicable disease, and the most common chronic disease among children.

thyroid

Flaxseed: No cure for thyroid problems

While flaxseed is a rich source of essential fatty acids, especially omega-3 fatty acids, more research is needed regarding the possible risks and benefits of consuming the plant-based food. 

cancer

No, marijuana cannot cure cancer

Studies have explored the possible benefits of medical marijuana on cancer symptoms and treatment side effects. 

skin cancer

Fact-check: Sunscreens don’t cause cancer

People use sunscreens to protect themselves from exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays – the leading cause of skin cancers. An Instagram post, for instance, claims that sunscreens cause skin cancer as they block Vitamin D from the sun.

MSG

Fact-check: MSG is safe for human consumption

Despite several claims of adverse health effects of MSG, studies find that the widely used food additive does not pose any serious hazards to the body. 

cancer 

Fact-check: ‘Green juice’ cannot cure cancer 

Juicing removes fiber from fruits and veggies; consuming them in a solid form is the healthier option. Fiber is known to be effective in preventing certain types of cancers, such as colon cancer.

Dr.-Nicola-Simone

First Check Diaries by Dr. Nicola Simone

“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” – Ludwig WittgensteinBefore joining First Check, I was an independent fact-checker with a personal page on Facebook. When I saw my close circle of friends and relatives deal with confusion, anxiety, and panic as they followed the news on COVID-19 – many of which […]

Fact-check: Vaccinated people are not more likely to die of COVID-19

A viral tweet claims that “Government of Canada data shows the triple vaccinated are over 5x more likely to die of COVID-19 than the unvaccinated”. The tweet is based on an article from The Exposé, supposedly “run by extremely ordinary, hardworking people who are sick and tired of the fear-mongering, lies and propaganda perpetuated by the mainstream media”.

Don’t ignore period pain

Pelvic pain, just before and during menstrual period, is a common complaint. Many women resort to home remedies – mostly found on social media – to help manage the pain, without seeking medical opinion. 

Fact-checking: Why context matters

In other words, adjuvants are not as “dangerous” as the social media posts may have you believe. It’s important to also consider the context and not just the facts. 

‘There is no vaccine for the infodemic’

COVID-19 pandemic came with a flow of Covid misinformation, which compromises health decisions. While not all of the misinformation is shared with malicious intent, it undermines the importance of public reports based on research in global countries.

Step up the fight against misinformation 

The health misinformation crisis won’t end with the pandemic. It’s important for healthcare professionals to be well-versed with fact-checking. 

‘Scientific research must be easy to find & share’

As the fight against COVID-19 continues, the scientific community is fighting another battle too – the infodemic. This fight can be won only if trusted medical institutions and healthcare practitioners join forces. By John Aloyzeus Reotutar We live in a world where anti-vaxxers, quack doctors, and conspiracy theorists seem to thrive. Making an attempt to […]

First Check Diaries by Dr. Debanjan Banerjee

“We now live in a world where information is potentially unlimited. When information is cheap, meaning turns expensive.” – George Dyson I believe that every physician is inherently a fact-checker, even though we often remain unaware of it. Not taught in routine medical curriculum, not evaluated in clinical examinations and not popularized in regular medical […]

Uncovering 2 common infertility myths

One of the most common reproductive health myths is that young and (seemingly) healthy women do not have to face any infertility issues. However, many such women struggle with achieving pregnancy, despite trying to conceive for a year or more. That’s when we diagnose the couple – not the woman – as having infertility issues and we try finding out what could be the reason.

No home remedy to induce menstruation within an hour!

Given that irregular periods are a common challenge for many women, home remedies that claim to cure the problem are hugely popular. However, there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that any such remedy can induce menstruation instantly.

migraine

Home remedies for migraine may not be effective

While tea is considered to be a go-to drink for coping with headaches, getting relief from migraine pain can be a challenge. It’s important to seek timely medical care.

lungs problem

Decoding the ‘COVID-19 lung’

A viral image circulating on social media platforms, demonstrating the difference between a ‘normal lung’ and ‘COVID-19 lung’, is causing much distress and panic. On Instagram, the image has 1000+ likes, so far. 

First Check inducts five new members 

A flagship initiative of DataLeads and signatory of the International Fact-Checking Network, First Check has 49 members from Australia, Africa, Bangladesh, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Italy, Nepal, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, United Kingdom and Yemen.

World Cancer Day: Spread facts, not fear

Every year 4th February is observed as World Cancer Day – a day to raise awareness and strengthen the fight against the global cancer epidemic. It’s also important to address the ever-growing misinformation about cancer on social media.

misinformation

Lessons in tackling health misinformation

Understanding how the internet and social media have changed out engagement with health (mis)information, and whether we, as individuals, can successfully evaluate veracity, is a vital task.

6 COVID-19 myths that refuse to die

A viral WhatsApp video, circulating in India, peddles old misleading claims about the coronavirus in an engaging way.

Beware of home remedies for asthma

While organic compositions of natural products, prepared under laboratory conditions, can complement the use of traditional drugs, homemade juic