Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2016 scientific society talks in London blog post

Friday, 17 May 2013

Medical research charities, what action do you take against misleading health claims?

I wrote this on the LinkedIn group I moderate for people interested in science communication in the medical research charity sector. Possibly it's more helpful to have it on my blog...

Originally posted here  

Does your charity take action against misleading health claims? Do you involve members and carers in reporting bad advertising to the ASA?

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has just published its annual report and talks about the five things it's focusing on at the moment: free trials, misleading pricing, daily deals, misleading testimonials, misleading health claims.

Of these the latter two are clearly of most obvious relevance to charities that support patients and I wondered if any of you do, or have considered (or 'have rejected the idea of') involving your 'constituency' in scanning the internet for misleading claims and reporting them to the ASA etc?

Yesterday the ASA published an adjudication which was upheld against someone trying to claim that they had a cure for Multiple Sclerosis (MS). I don't know who reported it to the ASA but I'm sure there are many other similar claims that are also in need of reporting.

A couple of weeks ago a different advertiser was told off for claiming to be able to cure Crohn's disease, and almost every week there's an advert for a disease or condition that might be relevant to one or more charities.

These would seem to yield an opportunity for new website content and / or commentary on others' news stories, but also as an opportunity of getting patients and carers involved at the outset.

I see this as being something of multiple potential benefits (though perhaps there are disbenefits that I've not thought of, so you might disagree):

(1) taking action to remove misleading adverts

(2) an opportunity to write a news story about the ASA's actions. My former employer Diabetes UK wrote a news story about Diabetone whose adverts were 'banned' by the ASA for being misleading

(3) an opportunity to go back a step and engage in a mini-campaign with members, getting them (a) to be more aware of the scams that are out there if they're not already and (b) do something about it, perhaps under the umbrella of your charity, perhaps not.

I've reported numerous adverts to the ASA and a couple to Trading Standards and am more than happy to help anyone who wants to put in a complaint themselves. There's also the 'Ask for Evidence' campaign from Sense About Science - they're worth chatting to and they work with many charities already.

Interested to hear if anyone else has tackled bad advertising either individually or as an organisation, and whether or not you've done it internally or involved your supporters.

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See also The Nightingale Collaboration which "challenges questionable claims made by healthcare practitioners on their websites, in adverts and in their promotional and sales materials by bringing these to the attention of the appropriate regulatory bodies."

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