A new initiative has been launched to help people to check the reliability of health claims which may be circulated on social media.
As part of the initiative members of the public can log on to a new website called iHealthFacts.ie and ask experts to verify a health claim.
Once their question is submitted, it is assigned to a named member of a research team who will try to find the source material of the claim and look for evidence to either support or refute it.
In some cases, other members of the research team may also provide additional research support.
This information is all then reviewed by a second named researcher, as well as at least one healthcare specialist and a representative from a team of ‘Evidence Advisors’ before final review by a health journalist.
The initiative has been developed by the Health Research Board-Trials Methodology Research Network (HRB-TMRN), Evidence Synthesis Ireland and Cochrane Ireland, at NUI Galway, together with partners and evidence advisors.
Dr Frances Shiely and Dr Darren Dahly, who both work at the HRB’s Clinical Research Facility in Cork and the School of Public Health at University College Cork, have both been named as members of the evidence advisors panel.
Dr Shiely said the launch of the new initiative comes at a vital time.
“One of our goals is to involve the public, and enable people to make informed health decisions,” she said.
She acknowledged that it can be difficult for people to try to verify some information as they may not be able to access or process certain research information.
“This has never been more important than now,” Dr Shiely added.
Some of the questions which have already been answered by researchers relate to COVID-19, with iHealthFacts.ie showing that there is no conclusive evidence that taking ibuprofen leads to a worsening of COVID-19 symptoms.
It also debunks the idea that spraying alcohol or chlorine on a person can stop them being infected with the coronavirus.