Social media not replacing doctor patient relationship - Noakes

2016-10-19 16:37
Michael van der Nest, Professor Tim Noakes and Ravin Ramdass at the hearing. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Michael van der Nest, Professor Tim Noakes and Ravin Ramdass at the hearing. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

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Cape Town - Twitter is a wonderful medium to share knowledge to allow the public to make informed decisions about nutrition, but will never replace the doctor-patient relationship, Professor Tim Noakes said on Wednesday.

“Followers have the option of taking the advice I give, or not. It’s a space for experts to agree or challenge each other,” he testified during a conduct hearing against him at the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA).

He said through this medium, the power of the anointed is giving way to the wisdom of the crowd.

“We have to educate people that it’s up to each of us to make a decision on the basis of the best possible evidence. I may be right sometimes, but sometimes I will be wrong. It’s up to you to make the best possible decision.”

Noakes - whose book The Real Meal Revolution promotes a low-carbohydrate, high-fat (LCHF) diet - was called before the council after the former president of the Association for Dietetics in South Africa, Claire Julsing-Strydom, lodged a complaint against him.


READ: Banting diet 'cutting edge and science based' - Noakes

It was prompted by a tweet Noakes sent to a Pippa Leenstra after she asked him for advice on feeding babies and on breastfeeding.

Her tweet read: "@ProfTimNoakes @SalCreed is LCHF eating ok for breastfeeding mums? Worried about all the dairy + cauliflower = wind for babies?? [sic]"

Noakes advised her to wean her child onto LCHF foods, which he described as "real" foods.

His tweet read: "Baby doesn't eat the dairy and cauliflower. Just very healthy high-fat breast milk. Key is to ween [sic] baby onto LCHF."

Noakes had said his advice was anything but unconventional, quoting research from as far back as the 1800s, before the boom in obesity rates.

The HPCSA argued that it was inappropriate conduct to give advice via social media without a physical consultation.

Noakes countered that the tweet was general nutritional knowledge and not specifically directed at Leenstra.

He pointed out to the panel that they did not have enough knowledge on how Twitter worked.

“I am a very successful twitterer - I am able to get a message out. I am one of the expert twitterers and recognised as one of the leading twitterers in obesity research. I have over 77 000 followers.”

He insisted he had not been dispensing medical advice specifically to Leenstra in their exchange.

“If I was interested in providing medical information to patients on the internet, I would have done it years ago. But I don’t see myself as a doctor. I am a scientist focusing on scientific information.”

Social media was not replacing the doctor patient relationship, he said.

“It complements medicine and the doctor-patient relationship. It’s not ‘instead of’, it’s ‘in addition to’.”

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Read more on:    hpcsa  |  tim noakes  |  health

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