Conflict of Interest in the Post-Truth Era: What is it, Now?

Conflict of Interest in the Post-Truth Era: What is it, Now?

David Katz 29/01/2020 2

What is, and what is not, a conflict of interest - in public health, and in general?

It is not a conflict of interest to espouse what you know or believe to be true, based on the weight of available evidence, and/or your own life's work, and then to find yourself surrounded and supported by others who also favor that same conviction or set of convictions, already propounded.

It is not, for example, a conflict of interest when those long committed to environmental conservation, sustainability, and mitigating the harms and course of climate change- find themselves surrounded and supported by companies and individual benefactors committed to the same.

It is not a conflict of interest if you are at liberty to change your mind and public position, if and as the evidence changes, without the risk of losing your livelihood. 

It is not a conflict of interest if your livelihood depends always and only on advancing what you genuinely know and believe to be true, rather than the favored position of some patron- whether or not you know or believe that patron's position to be true.

In contrast, it is a conflict of interest if those supporting you...predetermine what you are going to say on a given topic, regardless of the weight of evidence, or even, perhaps, your own work and findings. 

It is a conflict of interest if your actual convictions are subordinate to your paycheck, and/or marching orders.

The distinction is routinely mangled in modern discourse by those with conflicts, seeking to conflate their circumstances with the very different circumstances of those without.

This is just one among the many false equivalences that propagate confusion in this post-truth era. Such confusion is the enemy of understanding, of common cause on common ground- and thus, of the strength to advance, born only of unity.

-fin

Dr. David L. Katz; Founder & President, The True Health Initiative

The True Health Initiative is a federally authorized 501c3 non-profit supported by philanthropy. The Council of Directors is a coalition of roughly 500 diverse content experts in medicine, public health, and life sciences- from roughly 45 countries. The THI does not advocate for any specific diet, but rather the general set of clearly established, fundamental elements of health-promoting and sustainable dietary and lifestyle practices. Organizational membership in the True Health Initiative is open to all based on merit and alignment of principles, and does not involve a fee. Dr. Katz is uncompensated in his role as President. 

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  • Mike Anderson

    Thoughtful piece

  • Greg Smith

    Excellent article

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David Katz

Diet Expert

David L. Katz, MD, MPH, FACPM, FACP, FACLM, is the Founding Director (1998) of Yale University’s Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, and current President of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. He has published roughly 200 scientific articles and textbook chapters, and 15 books to date, including multiple editions of leading textbooks in both preventive medicine, and nutrition. He has made important contributions in the areas of lifestyle interventions for health promotion; nutrient profiling; behavior modification; holistic care; and evidence-based medicine. David earned his BA degree from Dartmouth College (1984); his MD from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine (1988); and his MPH from the Yale University School of Public Health (1993). He completed sequential residency training in Internal Medicine, and Preventive Medicine/Public Health. He is a two-time diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine, and a board-certified specialist in Preventive Medicine/Public Health. He has received two Honorary Doctorates.

   

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