Montana State University

Nov. 20 Café Scientifique to focus on over-diagnosis of ills

November 7, 2008 -- From MSU News Service

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
BOZEMAN -- Over-diagnosis of medical problems will be discussed at the next Café Scientifique to be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 20, at Ferraro's Fine Italian Restaurant in Bozeman. The public is invited to this free informal discussion.

Dr. H. Gilbert Welch, from the Department of Veterans Affairs and Dartmouth Medical School, will speak on "Over Diagnosis: Making People Sick in the Pursuit of Health." Welch is professor of medicine with the Department of Veterans Affairs in White River Junction, Vt., and the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice at Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, N.H.

Welch contends that Americans live longer than ever, yet more and more people are being told they are sick. Conventional wisdom says that more diagnoses means more treatment, and more treatment means better health. While that may be true for some, Welch offers another view.

"More diagnoses make healthy people feel more vulnerable and, ironically, less healthy," Welch says. "And more diagnoses can lead to excessive treatment -- treatment for conditions that pose little or no threat to health and that are either not that bothersome or not bothersome at all. And because almost all of our treatments have harms, excessive diagnosis can lead to treatment that is worse than the disease."

Café Scientifique seating is limited and the event is popular, so attendees may want to arrive early. Participants are encouraged to read Welch's recent essay, "Campaign Myth: Prevention as Cure-All" in The New York Times.

Café Scientifique, co-sponsored by Montana's INBRE Program and MSU's College of Letters and Science, provides a relaxed setting for people to learn about current scientific research. The concept started in England in 1998 and has spread to a handful of locations in the United States. Following a short presentation by a scientific expert, the majority of time is reserved for questions, answers and lively discussion.

For more information, call Laurie Howell at (406) 994-7531 or For more information about the Café Scientifique concept, check the Web at

Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or