KR: How should consumers evaluate health claims? Suppose an ad claims a certain drug will reduce your chances of having a stroke by 25 percent. But what are your chances in the first place—i.e., what are you reducing by 25 percent? If your chances of having a stroke start out at just one in a thousand, the drug won’t really do you that much good. But if your chances of having a stroke are 50 percent, the 25 percent reduction is a pretty big deal. I think it’s important for consumers to understand these types of figures, but few articles are written to explain them as far as I can tell.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls antibiotic resistance one of its top concerns—i.e., bacteria that used to be treatable with antibiotics no longer are. Much of this problem stems from improper or unnecessary antibiotic use by humans—say, to treat colds and flu. But many experts are convinced that a big part of the problem comes from the use of antibiotics with farm animals, and studies are starting to back them up.

The obesity epidemic is always in the news these days, and moderation is often recommended as a key to successful dieting. But for some people, at least, it’s easier, say, to cut out all desserts than to just cut down on them. I’ve never seen an article that discusses how to achieve the moderation so many articles urge. And that’s just one of the psychological issues involved in dieting that are often overlooked, I think.

With the WHO declaring a pandemic [last Thursday], the issue of animal-to-human disease transmission is bigger than ever. This has not gone unreported, of course. But I haven’t seen a thorough discussion of how inter-species transmission occurs—including why it usually doesn’t but sometimes does—and how it can be combated (without, perhaps, the killing of vast numbers of animals that seems to be standard practice now).

Sanhita Reddy is a former Observatory intern currently living in Brazil on a Fulbright scholarship, studying the media sources people use to find health information.