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Online course

Making Sense of Health Evidence: The Informed Consumer

How do you understand whether health evidence is likely to be reliable or not? Find out in this free online course.

Free:

  • Access to the course for its duration + 14 days, regardless of when you join (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • No certificate

Upgraded:

  • Unlimited access to the course, for as long as it exists on FutureLearn (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • A Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course

Find out more

Making Sense of Health Evidence: The Informed Consumer

Why join the course?

Every day we read or hear about new health research that looks at what might help or harm, limit or extend our lives. Health research is big business and over a million papers are published every year on health-related topics. So how do we find the evidence we need and, more importantly, how do we judge how good that evidence is?

Over four weeks, this free online course will:

  • look at what factors make some evidence less reliable;
  • provide practical help on how to find the best evidence;
  • improve your understanding of health research and its terminology; and
  • give you some simple tools to help judge whether you can believe it.

The issues raised in this course are examined in a series of weekly case studies. These provide a framework to discuss wider issues in health research. Topics include the Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine, the use of drugs in pregnancy and the impact of dehydration on how well we function.

As part of the course, we will be developing a resource bank that points you to sources of good evidence throughout the world. We would like you to participate in this process by identifying the best evidence-based health resources in your country and acting as a quality checker.

The team of educators on the course come from a range of disciplines, including health, social sciences and journalism, and teach courses at all levels on how to understand research and use it effectively.

Download video: standard or HD

Skip to 0 minutes and 9 secondsWe put the course together, because everyday we're bombarded with news about how something is good for you, not so good for you. This causes this. Something else causes cancer. Apparently, most things cause cancer. It was really to help people understand why not all evidence is good evidence and why you need to be selective. You're trying to find the information you want, but what you need to use are reliable and valid data sources. And there are plenty of those out there. If you can find this in your search for information towards those websites, then you'll do better.

Skip to 1 minute and 2 seconds And part of what we're trying to do in the course is to show you what kind of resources can help you, what kind of evidence you should be looking for, and how to find it more easily. The other big thing that you need to look for, the really big thing you need to look for is, was the research sponsored? If it was sponsored, who sponsored it? What kind of conflicts of interest do people have? It's actually got sneakier. And one of the things we show you is that quite often what you see is funded in a way you might not expect by a group you have invested interest in you believing that piece of evidence.

Skip to 1 minute and 53 seconds It's about giving you the confidence to ask the right questions, because very often if it doesn't look right, it probably isn't.

What topics will you cover?

  • Why all evidence isn’t good evidence
  • How health research is reported in the media
  • Bias and conflicts of interest in health research
  • Hydration and health - who pays for the research
  • Searching for health information
  • What counts as good evidence
  • Risks and benefits of treatments
  • Taking drugs in pregnancy
  • Perceptions of health research
  • How treatments are evaluated
  • The MMR scare in the media
  • Estimating and communicating risk
  • Different kinds of research
  • Smoking and lung cancer - lifestyle choices and risk

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you'll be able to...

  • Collaborate to identify and create a shared set of reliable sources of health evidence
  • Apply critical thinking skills to a range of case study examples
  • Develop an understanding of health research and its terminology
  • Assess issues related to risks and benefits of treatments
  • Explore how research is carried out

Who is the course for?

You might want to sign up for this course if:

  • you, a member of your family or a friend have a medical condition, so you can understand the evidence for various treatment or management options;
  • you are applying to study a health-related subject at university;
  • you have a general interest in the topic and want to improve your knowledge; or
  • you are involved as a lay (non-expert) member of a research committee or advisory panel.

The only requirement is having an interest in the topic. So if you want to understand why not all evidence is good evidence, and learn how to tell the difference, this course is for you.

Who will you learn with?

Fiona Morgan

Hello. After twenty years working in industry (including twelve with a pharmaceutical company) I joined Cardiff University in 2006. I work as a Systematic Reviewer and Lecturer in Research Methods.

Who developed the course?

Cardiff University is a member of the Russell Group of the UK’s leading research-intensive universities and is ranked within the top 150 universities in the world in the QS World University Rankings.

Buy a personalised, digital and printed certificate and transcript

You can buy a Certificate of Achievement for this course — a personalised certificate and transcript in both digital and printed formats, to prove what you’ve learnt. A Statement of Participation is also available for this course.

Certificate of Achievement + transcript £49.00

Statement of Participation £39.00

Estimate prices in preferred currency

Charges to your account will be made in GBP. Prices in local currency are provided as a convenience and are only an estimate based on current exchange rates.