• 13 MAY 07
    • 0

    #724: Lancet: WHO needs to make better use of evidence rather than relying upon experts

    The Lancet has just published online an article quite relevant to the recommendations of the WHO International EMF Project and ICNIRP as examined in the other articles below.



    Use of evidence in WHO recommendations

    Dr Andrew D Oxman MD, John N Lavis MD, and Atle Fretheim MD

    Summary / Background

    WHO regulations, dating back to 1951, emphasise the role of expert opinion in the development of recommendations. However, the organisation’s guidelines, approved in 2003, emphasise the use of systematic reviews for evidence of effects, processes that allow for the explicit incorporation of other types of information (including values), and evidence-informed dissemination and implementation strategies. We examined the use of evidence, particularly evidence of effects, in recommendations developed by WHO departments.


    We interviewed department directors (or their delegates) at WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, and reviewed a sample of the recommendation-containing reports that were discussed in the interviews (as well as related background documentation). Two individuals independently analysed the interviews and reviewed key features of the reports and background documentation.


    Systematic reviews and concise summaries of findings are rarely used for developing recommendations. Instead, processes usually rely heavily on experts in a particular specialty, rather than representatives of those who will have to live with the recommendations or on experts in particular methodological areas. (Full article available by subscribing to the Lancet online – no fees)
    Related articles:

    WHO and Electric Utilities: A Partnership on EMFs

    Microwave News: http://www.microwavenews.com/nc_oct2005.html#partners

    October 1, 2005… As members of the WHO Task Group make their way to Geneva for next week’s meeting to complete its Environmental Health Criteria (EHC) document on power-frequency EMFs, new information has emerged showing that the electric utility industry has played a major role at every stage of developing the review document. (Full article on link)

    Conflict of Interest and Bias in Health Advisory Committees: A case study of the WHO’s EMF Task Group
    Don Maisch, JACNEM, Vol. 21 No. 1, p. 15-17, April 2006


    The potential problem of conflicts-of-interest biasing outcomes in papers submitted to bio-medical journals, including papers published in journals by expert advisory bodies, was an issue addressed by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors in November 3003. To quote from their “Uniform Requirements”: “Conflict of interest exists when an author (or the author’s institution), reviewer, or editor has financial or personal relationships that inappropriately influence (bias) his or her actions. . . The potential for conflict of interest can exist whether or not an individual believes that the relationship affects his or her scientific judgement. Financial relationships . . . are the most easily identifiable conflicts of interest and the most likely to undermine the credibility of the journal, the authors, and of science itself.” (1) This paper briefly examines this problem, using recent actions taken by the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) International EMF Project and the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). In both organisations the case is presented that maintaining independence from industry vested interests is essential for maintaining scientific objectivity and credibility in giving expert advice on public health matters.(Full article on link)

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