Evidence-based medicine – what is evidence anyway?

Evidence-based medicine – what is evidence anyway?

A term that is frequently bandied around the health and medical worlds today is the term, ‘evidence-based medicine’.

Sounds pretty logical and sound; that medicine should be based on evidence that can be measured in some way – that we learn what works and what does not by experience and observation. “Nothing wrong with that,” I hear you say.

Scientific research and evidence to support medicine and all health care is important and valuable. So there is no disputing the power and importance of research and evidence, much of which has lead to great breakthroughs and advances in medical care.

The problem is that this term, 'evidence-based medicine', has been hijacked by a relatively small number of academics and experts.

Evidence-based medicine has been narrowed down into meaning primarily evidence from randomised control trials (RCTs – which are usually sponsored) that make it into a scientific journal, and less about what is observed or anecdotally experienced.

Evidence can and should mean everything we feel and observe in life, and this includes the wealth and breadth of our own lived awareness that is available to everyone – if we connect to it.

There is a tendency in health care across the world today towards an over-reliance on information that is handed down by researchers or ‘experts’, and even the media. We are constantly being told what is the best way to live, what is the best medicine to take, what are the best foods to eat or not eat etc.

This information comes from outside of us and perhaps we assume it is correct because it comes from someone with credentials, a reputation or letters after their name, or is a view popular with many experts.

It seems we prefer being told what to do by someone else rather than taking responsibility for our own health and discerning what feels supportive to our bodies, and what does not.

A good example of this is that many people with a food intolerance test negative on the current tests available and so are deemed not intolerant by their doctor, based on the official test results. However many people notice that certain foods do not agree with them and when they eliminate these foods from their diets, they find that their health and wellbeing improves.

Does that mean that all these people are incorrect? Is this evidence any less factual or valuable than ‘the test’ result?

The word ‘evidence’ actually means ‘a body of information or facts, an indication or a sign’.

Perhaps we need to broaden our understanding of where this information can come from and actually take more responsibility for observing and learning from our own lived experience?

Maybe we should be making more use of our intuitive awareness and observation of what is happening in our own bodies.

With this approach we can gather scientific, credible evidence in our own lives about the way certain things affect us – be it foods, drinks, exercise or emotions – which apply to us individually and which may be much more relevant to us personally than a randomised controlled trial will be.

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  • By Andrew Mooney, Chartered Physiotherapist, Complementary Health Practitioner, Researcher and Presenter.

    I am fascinated and endlessly curious about the human body and the magic and order of how it works and moves. I am equally fascinated by people and discovering the common elements that make us all one human family.

  • Photography: Désirée Delaloye, Entrepreneur, Creative Director, J.P.

    My work includes illustrating, graphic- book- and web design, photography and so much more.