Digital Public Defence: Daniel Semakula

MD Daniel Semakula at Institute of Health and Society will be defending the thesis “Improving critical thinking about treatment claims, evidence and choices. Development and evaluation of an intervention to improve the ability of parents of primary school children in Uganda to critically appraise the trustworthiness of claims about treatment effects and make informed health choices” for the degree of PhD (Philosophiae Doctor).

Photo: Racheal Ninsiima.

The trial lecture will be held as a video conference over Zoom.

The digital trial lecture will follow regular procedure as far as possible, hence it will be open to the public and the audience can ask ex auditorio questions when invited to do so.

Click here to participate in the digital public defence

Download Zoom here


Digital Trial Lecture – time and place

See Digital Trial Lecture.

Adjudication committee

  • First opponent: Professor Mike Clarke, Queen’s University, Belfast, UK
  • Second opponent: Associate Professor Birgitte Graverholt, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences (HVL)
  • Third member and chair of the evaluation committee: Professor Espen Bjertness, University of Oslo

Chair of the Defence

Associate Professor Magnus Løberg, University of Oslo

Principal Supervisor

Research Director Atle Fretheim, Norwegian Institute of Public Health


In order for people to make well-informed health choices, they need to act on evidence that is trustworthy. However, there is an ocean of claims about which medical, surgical or behavioural treatments, or public health interventions are effective or safe, –many without a trustworthy basis.  Yet, many people lack the skills required to tell trustworthy and untrustworthy claims apart. If people act on untrustworthy information and fail to act on that which is trustworthy, they may experience adverse health outcomes.

This thesis presents findings from research done to develop and evaluate the effectiveness and safety of a media-based intervention for enabling parents in Uganda to recognise claims about treatment effects, carefully examine their trustworthiness and make informed health choices.

What we did: We designed an audio podcast to teach nine concepts that people should understand and apply to be able to recognise claims about treatment effects and assess their trustworthiness. We randomly assigned 675 parents to either the podcast or comparison group. We assessed if there were differences in the two groups in people’s ability to recognize and carefully appraise the trustworthiness of claims.

What we found: Parents who listened to the Informed Health Choices (IHC) podcast became better at assessing claims than those who did not. Compared to those who did not, 34% more who used the IHC podcast obtained scores indicating they had gained a “basic ability” to recognize and assess treatment claims, however, this reduced over one year. Several factors e.g. appropriateness, reportedly enabled or hindered the impact of the podcast.

What this means: We have shown for the first time that people without a research or health background can be empowered to recognise false claims about treatments, carefully examine their trustworthiness and make informed choices. Others can use this approach to develop solutions for addressing the problem of misinformation about treatments.

Additional information

Contact the research support staff.

Published Nov. 18, 2020 10:59 AM - Last modified Dec. 3, 2020 10:02 AM