The Protestant Reformation in Health Communication: Why Science Needs A Standard Way To Talk To Non-Scientists

Embargo until
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
My presentation will discuss how we have embarked on what you might term a Protestant Reformation when it comes to the relationship of doctors to patients. At one time patients went to the priestly doctors with questions and expected him or her to interpret illnesses by consulting holy, Latinate text. The interpretation was necessary both because the texts were difficult to come by – you had to go to a medical school library – and because they were written in what amounted to the patients to be scientific Latin. Now patients go the Internet and consult the texts themselves. Accordingly, when they enter the doctors’ offices patients they more and more expect to be treated as peers. But in order for the information revolution to be truly effective the holy texts – think scientific papers – have to be made more understandable to the lay person. One way of accomplishing this is by translating their most Latin-like elements – statistics – into a language ordinary people can easily understand. In this regard it would make sense for there to be a universal, representational, easy-to-understand statistical language into which the findings of all medical papers are presented when the papers are abstracted on the Internet.
Paper presented at the 1st International Symposium on Understanding Health Benefits and Risks: Empowering Patients and Citizens. Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland. May 29, 2009