You don’t need pills to treat depression. That is the startling claim made recently in the lifestyle section of a prominent South African news website and at least two weekend newspapers. But the claim is a gross simplification of a complex issue.
The lifestyle sections and health pages of many major newspapers and magazines routinely tout questionable health claims that are not supported by scientific research or evidence. This is a guide to evaluating the legitimacy of those claims and reporting responsibly on them.
The department of basic education claims to be replacing a “mud school” a week in South Africa’s impoverished Eastern Cape province. At face value, it would seem to be an impressive accomplishment. But as Africa Check discovered, the claims involve a heavy dose of spin.
An article in Kenya’s The Standard last week touted the claims of a local man to have found a new cough remedy based on ‘mole soup’. Coughs can be the symptom of many different conditions, some of which can be fatal. While diet can affect some coughs, this treatment is unverified for any.
Do 80% of South Africans regularly consult traditional healers? Do most black South Africans choose traditional healers over medical doctors and primary healthcare facilities? The claims are false. And as we discovered, with a little sleuthing, they stem from a book published thirty years ago.