Every day we are bombarded by television ads, public service announcements, and media reports warning of dire risks to our health and offering solutions to help us lower those risks. But many of these messages are incomplete, misleading, or exaggerated, leaving the average person misinformed and confused. Know Your Chances is a lively, accessible, and carefully researched book that can help consumers sort through this daily barrage by teaching them how to interpret the numbers behind the messages. In clear and simple steps, the authors—all of them staff physicians at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in White River Junction, Vermont—take the mystery out of medical statistics. By learning to understand the medical statistics and knowing what questions to ask, readers will be able to see through the hype and find out what—if any—credible information remains. The book's easy-to-understand charts will help ordinary people put their health concerns into perspective.This short, reader-friendly volume will foster communication between patients and doctors and provide the basic critical-thinking skills necessary for navigating today's confusing health landscape.
What This Book Is About
PART ONE. WHAT IS MY RISK?
1. Understanding Risk
2. Putting Risk in Perspective
3. Risk Charts: A Way to Get Perspective
PART TWO. CAN I REDUCE MY RISK?
4. Judging the Benefit of a Health Intervention
5. Not All Benefits Are Equal: Understand the Outcome
PART THREE. DOES RISK REDUCTION HAVE DOWNSIDES?
6. Consider the Downsides
7. Do the Benefits Outweigh the Downsides?
PART FOUR. DEVELOPING A HEALTHY SKEPTICISM
8. Beware of Exaggerated Importance
9. Beware of Exaggerated Certainty
10. Who's Behind the Numbers?
Credible Sources of Health Statistics
Steven Woloshin, MD, MS, Lisa Schwartz, MD, MS, and H. Gilbert Welch, MD, MPH, are general internists, faculty members at Dartmouth Medical School, and researchers in the VA Outcomes Group, Department of Veterans Affairs, White River Junction, Vermont. Woloshin and Schwartz have written many articles together for leading medical journals, and Welch is the author of Should I Be Tested for Cancer? Maybe Not and Here's Why (UC Press).
"This is the book for anyone (and that's most of us) who has ever felt whipsawed by the incessant and often contradictory media reports of health threats and medical fixes. The authors—well-known experts in risk analysis—take readers by the hand and show them in easy-to-follow steps how to evaluate health stories and decide for themselves what really matters and what is merely hype. A valuable and unique contribution."—Marcia Angell, MD, former editor of The New England Journal of Medicine
"We have a deluge of medical information coming from caregivers, drug companies, and the media. Some of this is accurate and important, some misleading and irrelevant. This concise and clearly written primer gives us a strategy to navigate through these data and arrive at an intelligent understanding of what we need for our health and what we can forgo."—Jerome Groopman, MD, author of How Doctors Think
"Valuable to any patient or prospective patient, from junior high schoolers to senior citizens."—Joel Best, author of Stat-Spotting: A Field Guide to Identifying Dubious Data
"Many people have an interest in making you unnecessarily afraid about diseases you're not likely to get or cause you to have unrealistic expectations about the benefits of treatment. This book gives you the skills to make your own judgments about these claims. It provides a roadmap for deciphering the kinds of statistics that keep us from making truly informed decisions."—Maryann Napoli, Associate Director of Center for Medical Consumers
"The authors have done a remarkable job of dispelling the clouds that often separate people from the medical information that they need. Know Your Chances reflects the authors' confidence that, with a little help, people can make sound decisions about their own health."—Baruch Fischhoff, author of Acceptable Risk