New! Read about the project in BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine:

«Using claims in the media to teach essential concepts for evidence-based healthcare» (Oxman et al. 2020)

What is Bak overskriftene

Bak overskriftene («Behind the headlines») is an interdisciplinary project started in 2018. The primary goal is to help students learn how to critically assess health claims. We continue to develop an educational intervention with two main phases:

  1. students are introduced to essential concepts, such as the difference between association and causation; and
  2. students use claims from the mass media to illustrate those concepts in popular science-style reports, which are published on this website.

The project takes advantage of mass media content being simple, relatable and entertaining, to teach students concepts that are also essential for assessing scientific literature. In this way, the intervention can be a stepping stone to evidence-based practice for students in the health sciences, in addition to being relevant to all other students. 

The intervention was tested in a pilot with a small group of students from different faculties and programmes at Oslo Metropolitan University and the University of Oslo, at the start of 2019. Here is some of what they learned and how they have used it, according to the students:

  • “I read news reports more closely and try to look at thing from different angles. I assess claims using more or less the ‘recipe’ from the project, to see if they are up to the mark.”
  • “I learned that randomised trials are important for the quality of research and that you should look at the size of the population studied. Often conclusions are drawn on a poor basis.”
  • “I have thought about how I myself can set up the study design when I am going to do my own research for the study to be as trustworthy as possible.”

We intend organise the students’ reports in a database, where educators can easily find examples with certain characteristics, particularly for teaching evidence-based practice within the health sciences.

This website is initially a learning resource, but we also plan on establishing a student editorial board that will regularly publish topical content, including assessments of recent claims in the media.

For now, all other content on the website is in Norwegian, but we are keen on international collaboration and developing content in other languages.

Bak overskriftene is inspired by the British service Behind the Headlines and is part of the Informed Health Choices project.

We do not provide health advice. For sources of reliable health information, click here.

What type of claims does the project cover?

There are different types of health claims—for example, claims about how many people have an illness or injury (prevalence), or the course of a disease (prognosis).

Bak overskriftene focuses on claims about the effects of treatments (health interventions). A treatment is something you do or use to improve your health or keep from getting sick or injured. This includes:

  • «modern» medicine, also known as “academic”, “conventional» or “Western” medicine;
  • “alternative”, “traditional”, “natural” or “complementary” medicine;
  • screening, surgery and technology; and
  • diet, exercise and lifestyle.

Why is the project important?

There are endless claims about the effects of treatments—especially in the mass media—and many of the claims are unreliable. Many people, including health professionals, are unable to assess these claims, which can lead to uninformed choices, which again can lead to waste and unnecessary suffering.

The ability to assess health claims is especially important for students in the health sciences, who are going to help others make good health choices. However, we all make health choices and the reports on this website are relevant to everyone.

In addition, the concepts explained in the reports are transferrable to other fields. For example, an association between an intervention and outcome is not the same as causation, regardless of whether the intervention is a treatment or an educational intervention.

Who is behind the project?

The Faculty of Health Sciences at Oslo Metropolitan University initiated and leads the project, in collaboration with the Department of Journalism and Media Studies and the Faculty of Technology, Art and Design, represented by the Department of Computer Science.

The project has been developed by a working group with students and faculty from: various health and social sciences, including nursing and public health nutrition; journalism; computer science; product design; and library and information sciences.

In addition, the project has national and international advisory groups.

For more information, contact: bakoverskriftene@oslomet.no.