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Science and the Facts We Need to Know for Our Health

October 05, 2020

“I am a firm believer in the people,” Abraham Lincoln said. “If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.”

In the context of today’s efforts to defeat COVID-19, there is one critically important place to look for a reliable source of real facts: science.

What I mean by “science” is not any single study or group of studies on COVID-19’s causes and effects, a possible treatment, or a vaccine. Science, when practiced correctly, compiles all available data to assemble the best explanation for what we know about a condition and the best evidence for or against a particular course of action.

Facts can certainly change, and theories must adapt or be discarded when confronted with new information. That is how the scientific method works. Science is a collective effort that self-corrects and can ultimately reach a broad consensus, notably when so many of the world’s researchers are focused on the many fronts of a single, complicated problem.

At the beginning of the year, we knew relatively little about this disease and the virus that causes it. Today, we know much more. In the weeks and months ahead, we will know more still. The great point, as President Lincoln said, is to bring people the real facts — on a regular basis — so they can make informed decisions about their health.

That is why Women’s Health Research at Yale works to not only advance science and change practices to reflect the effects of sex and gender on health and to address the unique health needs of women. It also works to share the latest findings with health care providers and the public — so we all can act to create the best outcomes.

In today’s splintered media environment, it is more difficult than ever for people to know what is true and what is misinformation. Social media platforms contain sophisticated algorithms designed to maximize users’ attention — often by amplifying the most contentious issues regardless of veracity. This results in many people consuming news within discrete bubbles that disagree on basic facts and can sow distrust about competing sources of information.

As of this writing, over 900,000 people in the world have died from COVID-19 and 28 million have been infected. People who are older and already sick are more likely to die from COVID-19, and more men than women are dying from the disease, independent of their relative ages or preexisting conditions.

Women in the United States have continued to assume more of the increased burden of health care services and of child care, and women have been more likely to lose their employment than men. Black Americans have been more likely to get sick and die from COVID-19 because of health disparities that have extended over centuries of systemic mistreatment on many fronts. These disparities have endured. Black women are more likely to die in childbirth. Black people are less likely to have health insurance, more likely to have chronic conditions that leave them more vulnerable to COVID-19, and more likely to have jobs that leave them exposed to infection.

These are facts. WHRY is changing science to produce more facts about health and disease and adopt better policies that can improve health outcomes for everyone. Online, in print, on TV, on radio, and in conversation with doctors and decision-makers, WHRY is spreading the word. Because the “real facts” are out there, if only we are willing to look and learn.

Submitted by Rick Harrison on September 30, 2020