Stop believing medical myths!
Debunking myths about health and medicine is all in a day’s work for these doctors
By Reenassri Sekaran
If there’s something strange about a thing you read, who you gonna call? No no, not The Ghostbusters, I I am talking about the Medical Mythbusters Malaysia!
Do any of these ‘medical facts’ sound familiar? ‘Drink this tea and your diabetes will be cured’ or ‘consume this and you will have a safe pregnancy’, or ‘taking a shower a night will fill your lungs with water.’
Centre for misinformation
Do a quick scroll on either Instagram or Facebook and out pops some cancer curing tea or vitamin C injections. Fake medical products claiming to solve multiple ailments have popped up like mushrooms and fake medical information are being spread like wildfire. Realising how the situation is putting public health at stake, co-founder and Health Ministry medical officer Dr Ahmad Firdaus Mohd Haris decided to take it upon himself to help tackle the matter.
How it started
“The idea started in 2016. Dr Mahyuddin Mohamed, Dr Mohd Syamirullah Rahim, Dr Khairul Hafidz Alkhair and I got together. Since each of us were writing something to combat fake medical information, why not gather a group of people and form a one-stop centre for the public to obtain valid medical facts from credible resources?”
Before the debut of Medical Mythbusters Malaysia (M3), Dr Firdaus began writing a blog called MOFrust.com – where he used it to blow off steam about his daily routine. From there, he realised it could be a good medium in exposing medical imposters and myths. From his blog, he soon met other doctors who shared the same pressing issue, fake medical information.
“I remember in 2017, I wrote a short paragraph – Calling all medical Avengers, whoever interested in joining us and debunking medical myths, please message me,” he recalls.
One step at a time
Medical Mythbusters Malaysia went through many phases throughout the years in efforts to bring awareness to the public.
“Initially, someone would ask us about a particular product and we will write on it. However it became ineffective and the outcome wasn’t fruitful. At one point, we would see all these many products being advertised on our social media wall and we would write on that. We don’t only have doctors but also dieticians and pharmacists on board M3 – so we will refer to them on certain regulations and then proceed to formulate the article.”
Now however M3 has swerved in a different direction. Dr Firdaus and his team are targeting to tell the public what to keep an eye out for when it comes to the various myths and products being sold on social media.
“There are way too many products present in the market. Debunk one and another product with a different name will pop up. Recently, there was a myth about non-stick pans causing cancer. Despite the debunking, I am sure this myth will circulate again in one to two years. Therefore, we want the public to learn what not to trust on social media,” he says hopefully.
So who are the active readers of M3? According to
Dr Firdaus, the demographic is between 25 to 40 years old and are mostly women. They currently have a following of 196K followers on their Facebook.
“Each of us have our own social media which contribute to a few thousand followers. We have seven top members and we do have our annual meetings. Honestly, M3 is just a bunch of friends who came together to do something they enjoy,” he smiles.
Bitter pill for some
However all is not sunshine and rainbows for this team of mythbusters. In 2017, one of the members of M3 – a pharmacist exposed a product which claimed it could treat multiple ailments. The product was found to contain steroid. Not long after the mythbusting, an anonymous person messaged him a threat and a police report had to be filed.
“Recently I gave a talk to a room full of dieticians. They wanted me to guide them on how to be active on social media in order to educate the public. I remember at the end, I told them that this duty was not for just anyone – there are legal issues, dealing with people who are unhappy with what you say – there are a lot of things pushing you down. Sometimes it’s exhausting but that’s what’s great about a being a team. On days when I feel down, someone else will take over my position – that’s the nice thing about M3 ,” he confides.
What’s next for the mythbusters?
“Nowadays, we tend to go offline because we think there is a segment that needs attention – uncles and aunties. They don’t have access to social media. For now it’s just the mosques. We had one event last year called ‘M3 Turun Padang’, where we give talks and home medication counselling. We are now getting more involved in talks, television shows and are working with the Ministry of Health because we believe that is the way forward,” he concludes.
Now that you’ve read this, we too are hoping the public will be more aware and conscious of every ‘miracle pill’ or ‘cancer curing tea’ that pops on your social media. — The Health
M3 receiving the certificate of appreciation by the Health Minister, Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad during World Vaccination Day 2019.
Each of us have our own social media which contribute to a few thousand followers. We have seven top members and we do have our annual meetings. Honestly, M3 is just a bunch of friends who came together to do something they enjoy.”
– Dr Firdaus
The team was recognised as ‘Vaccine Hero’ for their efforts on the advocacy for vaccination.