Health Attitudes and Science Literacy

A recent survey was completed to assess misbeliefs in cancer prevention across high/low income countries.  Steven Novella writes a short and interesting article on “Attitudes and Public Health” that generalizes the survey:

The basic premise is that there is a growing demand in the U.S. for patients to become more involved in their own health care.  Unfortunately at the same time patients are poorly informed about the basic scientific facts necessary to intelligently make these decisions.  For example: “people in high-income countries were the least likely to believe that drinking alcohol increases the risk of cancer”.

All of this illustrates the need to continue to support and expand science education in schools and accurate science reporting in the media.  In addition to basic scientific knowledge, critical thinking skills are necessary to absorb and accurately integrate new information.  Critical thinking is often overlooked or poorly taught in our science curriculum.  There is growing momentum to teach critical thinking as a discipline in its own right and such organizations as the JREF ( are helping that effort.