The Skeptic's Guide to Health, Medicine, and the Media

Tune up your B.S. detector and start sniffing out the facts behind potentially misleading headlines in health and medicine.
The Skeptic's Guide to Health, Medicine, and the Media is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 24.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent and thorough lectures This was a very helpful courses to learn how to be skeptical of health information in the media. Watching these lectures opened my eyes to how you shouldn't just read the headlines of articles, and what to look for in determining if the information in the media is from a legitimate source.
Date published: 2021-06-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One skeptic salutes another Dr. Benaroch is a man after my own mind, pounding home the need to be skeptical of what is available in the media. As a practising CPA, I've had my share of explaining to gullible taxpayers that the news and techniques they've picked up from the local coffee shop "experts" are not quite as fantastic as they've been led to believe. Some are borderline illegal schemes as well.. This is a fabulous course in two ways. First we're given a wonderful, and entertaining, background to misleading headlines which could lead readers in the wrong direction. Dr. Benaroch references these dramatic health claims to the actual scientific evidence to illustrate the divergence between the headlines and the facts. Those examples raise our skeptical antennae. It isn't until nearly at the end of the course, that we get that second benefit I referred to. Lesson 23 is a meticulous examination of searching for information via google; separating fact from fiction, reliable sources from questionable ones, and determining whether the information we've found can be useful and salient for safeguarding our own health. Don't get me wrong. The previous 22 lectures were not just a wasted trip with a wrap-up in the 23rd lecture of how to apply them. Those early example were important to show how so many discoveries were leading people astray through misleading news stories. And the 24th lecture? We find that the media can be invaluable in helping us. Think of the decades needed to get the public onside with understanding that smoking kills, Think of how the media ran with the determination of Candy LIghtner to bring home to every one of us that drunk driving kills. Mrs. Lightner founded MADD after her 13 year-old daughter was killed by a drunk driver who had been arrested only a week earlier for doing the same thing to another innocent bystander. This might not be your idea of a health issue, but it is certainly a common behavior which the media helped to correct. This change in public perception could not have been achieved without the active participation of media. Overall, I believe this was a very balanced course which showed both the good and bad sides of media when it comes to our health and medicine. And we learn to think skeptically in the process.
Date published: 2021-03-02
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Disappointment I'm a big fan of this professor from previous courses. However, this course left me disappointed. Although I agree with the majority of his conclusions, it was apparent that this was an opinionated course with given preferential arguments to his views and little or no arguments to the other viewpoints. In complete contrast to what a skeptic should do with any issue. That defy's the whole purpose of the lecture. Despite of this the professor is professional, knowledgeable, good voice, and interesting.
Date published: 2020-12-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful lecturer, important subject We have taken a number of these courses. This is among the best, if not the best, very largely because of Dr. Benaroch.
Date published: 2020-07-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Informative I have listened to about 90% of the lectures in this course. It really helps me to be a more informed skeptic about news media articles, the different types of studies and some insights into how the pharmaceutical companies advertise certain prescription medicines. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2020-06-13
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Deceiving "straight talk" While Benaroch is well organized and a good speaker, and while he communicates well his message that the media is not to be trusted when it comes to health information, his alternative view of the "real deal" delivered in the guise of straight talk from one who knows, amounts to little more than a series of rants that supports his highly conventional mainstream medical opinions. One can fault him little for his criticisms of the media's reporting of health care news, as there is a widespread failure of the media to communicate the nuances of medical research, which has highly variable levels of reliability, aside from its portrayal in the media. However his personal description of the alternative or presumably "correct" way of understanding the data is slanted in a way that he never confronts. His presentation seems to be authoritative as it accurately points out inaccurate and deceptive reporting, but what is hidden is his won inaccuracies. The mainstream medical perspective that he represents is hotly debated, as the weakness of the medical-pharamaceutical complex have been slowly revealed over the years through a series of disasters that the medical industry has been party to through its unholy alliance with the pharamaceutical companies. More and more people recognize that the conventional understanding of health and healing is tainted by this alliance, and are appropriately skeptical about the standard medical perspective, as represented by Dr. Benaroch. Benaroch seems to be holding himself forth as a skeptic, but he actually represents a more orthodox viewpoint. I had been hoping he would show more skepticism of not just the media, but the entire field of health care, conventional and unconventional. He would have done better if he would have taken a more epistemology view of the science of medicine, and showed more clearly the weaknesses of the statistics-based method of trying to ascertain truth through research, and then applied this critique to a number of health issues. These might include the use of psychotropics for mental health problems, statins, high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease, antibiotics, SIBO, and resistant organisms, vaccinations, short and long term statistical studies, nutrition and chronic illness, diabetes and the pros and cons of pharmaceuticals. These topics were not the ones Benaroch was interested in. He was more interested in exposing the fallacies of the media, than in the fallacies of information in general about health care. The latter would have been a more interesting topic, and one I hope he will take on in the future, as he is a good speaker.
Date published: 2020-05-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent guide to evaluating media reports. Uses hot issues for examples to show how to evaluate reports related to medical issues. Does an excellent job of explaining scientific method and relevant statistics ploys.
Date published: 2019-10-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from TAKE CARE HOW YOU TAKE THIS DOCTOR'S OPINIONS At the outset, let me say I've enjoyed a couple of other Great Courses videos presented by Dr. Benaroch. In fact, I was looking forward to SKEPTIC'S GUIDE, but was disappointed and decided to return it. For example, in the lecture HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY he fails to distinguish between bio-similar and bio-identical hormones. The former bio-similar pharma were big pharma's highly profitable synthetic estrogens, and which had to be discontinued from the market. The latter bio-identical ones non-prescription ones, which are not patentable, are extremely effective but unable to be patented, and of no use to big pharma. In IS IT TIME FOR MEDICAL MARIJUANA? he fails to make the point that CBD and only CBD has medical applications, especially for chronic pain mitigation. Moreover, he fails to make the point that legalization of "medical marijuana" is simply cover for legalizing THC of very high potency--recreational marijuana. He barely touches on the long-term health effects (and car fatalities) of this new THC "on steroids" which barely resembles its low-potency predecessor of the 1970s. The MEDIA'S TAKE ON MENTAL HEALTH discredits any connection or culpability for high-profile mass shootings and the drugs in the bodies of the shooters--drugs known as SSRIs. As well, he entirely ignores the success pharma has had in the huge number of prescriptions for Ritalin, especially for boys in public schools misdiagnosed with ADD. In THE MEDIA AND THE INTERNET he poo-poos concerns about vaccines as bogus "man bites dog" sensational stories. We hear nothing about the huge rise in autism and the increase in vaccination, especially with the mumps-measles-rubella 3-in-one administered to infants. A key theme in ALERNATIVE MEDICINE IN THE NEWS is that we may be wasting money on multivitamins and other supplements. He takes particular aim at the efficacy of fish oil and vitamin D supplements. It is beyond the scope of this review, but very briefly the large-scale VITAL study, as well as the REDCE-IT studies of these two supplements showed otherwise. For example, with a larger THERAPEUTIC dose of fish oil (4g/day), there were significant cardiac outcome improvements. Bottom line, as much as I like Dr. Benaroche's bedside manner, listening to his conventional wisdom would be hazardous to my health.
Date published: 2019-10-07
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Join Dr. Roy Benaroch to get the facts behind the headlines in today's media coverage of health and medicine.


Roy Benaroch
Roy Benaroch

Doctoring is about listening and paying attention. There's a lot to know, too-- but if you're not paying attention, you'll be misguided by what you think you already know. An open mind is a better diagnostic tool than one stuffed with facts


Emory University

Dr. Roy Benaroch is Adjunct Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Emory University School of Medicine. He earned his B.S. in Engineering at Tulane University, followed by his M.D. at Emory University. He completed his residency through Emory University's affiliated hospitals in 1997, serving as chief resident and instructor of pediatrics in 1998. Board certified in general pediatrics in 1997, Dr. Benaroch practices full time at Pediatric Physicians, PC, located near Atlanta, Georgia. In his dual roles, he teaches medical students and residents at his practice and gives regular lectures to physician's assistants at Emory University.

Dr. Benaroch has published two books on parenting and pediatric health topics: Solving Health and Behavioral Problems from Birth through Preschool: A Parent's Guide and A Guide to Getting the Best Health Care for Your Child. He also has a blog for parents and health professionals at, and he has served as a featured expert on Dr. Benaroch also serves on the board of directors of the Cobb Health Futures Foundation, Inc., a nonprofit group dedicated to public health for people of all backgrounds.

By This Professor

The Skeptic's Guide to Health, Medicine, and the Media


Hormone Replacement Therapy

01: Hormone Replacement Therapy

For decades, the pharmaceutical industry and the press praised hormone replacement therapy as a panacea for menopausal symptoms and women’s long-term health. But that all came to a screeching halt in 2002. Discover what the scientific studies that caused this sudden turnaround really said. And are men falling prey today to the same marketing tactics regarding testosterone?

32 min
Concussions and the Future of Football

02: Concussions and the Future of Football

What happens to billions of neurons when the gelatinous brain slams into the side of the hard skull? While the media has focused some attention on high-profile cases of concussion and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, learn how selective reporting can lull us into believing an issue has been adequately addressed when that is far from the truth—and lives are at stake.

33 min
New Drugs on the Block

03: New Drugs on the Block

Is prescription drug “X” a wonder drug or a disastrous failure? It can be almost impossible to answer that question based on what’s presented in the press. Using two drugs as case studies, you’ll learn how to better understand and evaluate the media description of prescription drugs, and why institutional changes regarding data availability can make all the difference.

32 min
Is It Time for Medical Marijuana?

04: Is It Time for Medical Marijuana?

By examining the story of marijuana and our changing perceptions of its safety and usefulness, you’ll learn how different stakeholders can affect media coverage, drive social change, and influence legislation. Given that the medical use of cannabis in the United States has not been driven by well-designed scientific studies, how can we best interpret the news reports addressing its efficacy and safety?

33 min
The Media and Weight Loss

05: The Media and Weight Loss

The media focus on weight loss comes as no surprise. With two of every three Americans being overweight, we certainly need sound nutrition and weight-loss advice based on solid science. But is that what we’re getting? Learn how to read beneath the hyperbole-filled headlines—“Fats are Bad!”; “Fats are Good!”—to determine if an article’s content is really salient to your own health.

30 min
Alternative Medicine in the News

06: Alternative Medicine in the News

Millions of Americans every year turn to alternative-medicine approaches that have never been rigorously studied or have even been disproven. Learn why fish oil supplements are a $1.2-billion industry, despite research that shows no health benefit from their use, and why individuals continue to turn to stem cell “infusions” despite sometimes dire consequences.

31 min
The Media’s Take on Mental Health

07: The Media’s Take on Mental Health

While mentally ill individuals are more likely to become victims of crime than to be violent perpetrators, their depiction in TV and film has skewed our perceptions of the risk they pose to society. The Associated Press has recently encouraged journalists to cover these issues more fairly and accurately. But as you’ll discover by looking at related news articles, we still have a long way to go.

31 min
The Media and the Internet

08: The Media and the Internet

You’d never believe people who told you they lived off air only, never eating. Yet one “Breatharian” couple received widespread media coverage on the internet, broadcast sites, and in print. Why are we so gullible? Learn how to think like a skeptic when reading news in any medium, remembering that while internet “clickbait” races continue to be faster and faster, real science is slow and steady.

32 min
We Share Our World with Toxins

09: We Share Our World with Toxins

While toxins are around us all the time and require a nuanced, sophisticated approach to understand, short and memorable headlines sell. Follow the fascinating media coverage of baby-food toxins and the new water system in Flint, MI, to discover the reasons for conflicting headlines and stories. Who got it right? And who got it so very wrong?

30 min
Are Coffee and Wine Good for Your Heart?

10: Are Coffee and Wine Good for Your Heart?

Learn why accurate reporting on the relationships between coffee, wine, and cardiovascular health—the number one cause of death in the United States—requires an understanding of real clinical endpoints as well as a desire to clearly explain the complicated answer to a seemingly simple question: Is this good for me or bad for me? With its ups and downs and missteps, the history of reporting on these topics is fascinating.

30 min
Life Expectancy and Infant Mortality

11: Life Expectancy and Infant Mortality

Why is life expectancy in the United States decreasing and infant mortality so high compared to other industrialized nations? Take a captivating look behind the scenes at the debate between scientists fighting for their individual points of view. Does the media explain the statistics behind their competing theories? If not, who suffers from the oversimplification of a “clickbait” headline?

30 min
Is It Really OK to Stop Flossing?

12: Is It Really OK to Stop Flossing?

You might have seen a headline recently stating that flossing your teeth is a complete waste of time, or might have read that new guidelines mean your blood pressure might be high. But did you also read that many doctors do not agree with those changes? Probably not. Learn why health recommendations can suddenly change and how to determine if those changes apply to you.

31 min
Does Cancer Screening Work?

13: Does Cancer Screening Work?

We’ve all seen the stories about a cancer survivor whose life was saved by early screening—heart-warming stories that can make us want to run out and take every early-warning test in sight. But cancer screening is full of complexities that rarely make the news. Learn about the very real dangers of overdiagnosing, and how to determine which screenings are important for you.

30 min
Drug Prices in the News

14: Drug Prices in the News

In an ideal world, all medications would be available and affordable to those who need them. But the minutiae of prescription drug pricing can create a significant barrier. Learn about the unique role of the pharmacy benefit manager, how pharmaceutical companies work to keep generics out of the marketplace, and the ways in which gifts given by drug reps still influence doctors’ prescribing habits.

31 min
Selling Disease

15: Selling Disease

Discover how drug companies sometimes develop a drug first, and only then identify a disease the drug can address—think restless legs syndrome or chronic dry eye. Is the media helping us focus on our biggest health challenges, or pulling our attention over to the newest problems, problems potentially driven by pharmaceutical marketing?

32 min
The Opioid Crisis

16: The Opioid Crisis

Opioids had been around for a century before exploding into the crisis we have today. But the cause of the current crisis is not as simple as the story we often hear—greedy drug companies pushing greedy doctors to overprescribe. Learn what the most common cause of opioid death is today, and the role the news media can play with respect to educating families and creating pressure for policy change.

33 min
Infections in the Headlines

17: Infections in the Headlines

While the media has played an important role in educating the public about hygiene and the avoidance of disease, it has also been known to spread false rumors resulting in very real health consequences. Learn what the media got right and wrong in covering the recent outbreaks of Ebola and influenza. And our own take away? If we don’t have time to read the full article, we shouldn’t be skimming the headlines.

31 min
Health Risks in Our Environment

18: Health Risks in Our Environment

Does your cell phone increase your risk for cancer? Does it really matter whether or not you use your seatbelt? Using your “Skeptic’s Toolkit,” learn how to examine the research that supports or (or doesn’t) the “risk” headlines to then make appropriate choices for you and your family. Exaggerating a risk might make for good “clickbait,” but it can lead to unnecessary fears and poor decision-making.

30 min
Bad Science

19: Bad Science

When doctors tragically rely on fraudulent or shoddy science published in reputable medical journals, patients can suffer. Even worse, explore the dark side of medical publishing, in which for-profit “journals” with worthy sounding titles publish trash articles reviewed by no one. When researchers’ work can be published for a fee, who really pays the price?

31 min
Diet, Health, and the Power of Words

20: Diet, Health, and the Power of Words

From “superfood” to “pink slime” to acai, the media exerts a powerful effect on our concepts of food, diet, and health. Learn how to differentiate between nutrition-related scientific statements and marketing statements. When does the desire to eat whole, healthy foods become an unhealthy obsession? What role does the media play in influencing those choices?

30 min
Genetics and the Media

21: Genetics and the Media

New information about the influence of our genes is released every day—but how does the press respond? With the example of genetic effects on obesity, you’ll discover how two antithetical headlines can result from the same scientific report. These overblown and overly simplistic headlines might attract readers, but they can muddy the waters of these complicated issues and even make readers skeptical of science itself.

32 min
How to Stay Young

22: How to Stay Young

Professor Benaroch will lead you through the exercise of finding solid, credible answers to a question on all of our minds: What’s the best way to stay young and healthy? He’ll illustrate how the skeptic’s tools you’ve learned to use when reading or viewing media reports will help you answer this or any other health question. You’ll be surprised where the research takes you!

30 min
Cures for the Common Cold

23: Cures for the Common Cold

Use your “Skeptic’s Toolkit” to discover how to best address the common cold. What’s your best choice: Echinacea, good old chicken soup, vitamin C, vitamin D, or zinc? Will any of these options cure the cold or get rid of it faster than a placebo? You’ll find your answer by remembering that good journalism provides an honest headline followed immediately by solid facts and an accurate summary of the appropriate studies.

30 min
The Media’s Role in Improving Health

24: The Media’s Role in Improving Health

Discover the positive role the popular media played in encouraging us to put our cigarettes down, our seatbelts on, and not mix drinking and driving. This is media at its best, working creatively and effectively in the interest of public health. What issues could the media address today to positively impact our public health?

36 min