We already declared personal medical advice as off-topic, I'm wondering if we should do the same for all health questions.

By health questions I mean all questions of the type "Is eating X healthy?", "Is doing activity Y healthy?", "Is X healthier than Y?". I don't only mean questions that specifically ask for advice, but all questions of this type since even if they're not explicitly asking for advice, it is very likely the asker intends to use the answers in that way.

There are two reasons why I'd like to do this. First, I don't think that those questions are good questions for our site, they are not really about biology in the end and they typically don't lead to any deeper understanding of biological concepts. Questions that ask about the biological mechanisms of known health effects would still be on-topic.

Another reason is that health questions tend to attract anecdotal, pseudoscientific or just plain bad answers. There is also the danger that answers here would reason from basic biological principles on complex health issues, which is something that can easily be wrong while sounding very plausible. We allow such questions on Skeptics, but there we mods can simply remove any answer that doesn't cite a credible source, which is absolutely necessary to keep the quality up there. We don't have such a rule here (and shouldn't have it here), which makes it much harder to remove bad answers.

  • $\begingroup$ New highly related question: From a purely biological perspective, how does an optimal human diet look $\endgroup$ Mar 11 '14 at 16:02
  • $\begingroup$ @fileunderwater Yes, I'd group nutrition questions in with health questions, so this is a pretty good example. $\endgroup$ Mar 11 '14 at 16:07
  • $\begingroup$ @MadScientist There actually is a Nutrition StackExchange site in the commit phase of Area 51: area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/44550/nutrition $\endgroup$ Mar 12 '14 at 20:11
  • $\begingroup$ What about this question? I feel like that's about health and clearly bio. Wording would be important on such a rule. $\endgroup$
    – Atl LED
    Mar 14 '14 at 2:35
  • $\begingroup$ this is closer to what you are describing, but I think the answer has merit. I'd like to have a clearer line on What's being excluded here. $\endgroup$
    – Atl LED
    Mar 14 '14 at 2:51
  • $\begingroup$ @AtlLED I think the second Q is an example of what should stay at BioSE (but would also be ontopic at a Medicie/health-SE) - this is basically a question on rapid viral evolution in multiple strains. $\endgroup$ Mar 14 '14 at 10:24
  • $\begingroup$ Just to be clear (because when you said second I think you meant first) the genetics element of the flu (first) question would be on topic, but the second, calories from chocolate, not on topic because it's a health question? I think it's worth noting that I think a Medical SE hasn't, and in my opinion never will, fly. $\endgroup$
    – Atl LED
    Mar 14 '14 at 15:05
  • $\begingroup$ @AtlLED yes, I meant first. $\endgroup$ Mar 14 '14 at 17:24

I think this is a good idea and would support it. Such questions would be more suitable on a medicine/health site. As you say, questions that ask for mechanisms on e.g. how something will affect the body would still be on topic, if correctly phrased.

I find both your objections valid, even if the second one is a bit more problematic. Simplisitic/naive answers on complex issues, that lack expertise on the particular topic at hand, can be a problem on many types of questions, even if they are based on biological principles. However, I agree that the risk is probably higher on health issues, with potentially more serious consequences.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I agree as well. While we can't really assume someone's reasoning for asking if X is better than Y, not even treading into that area is a good policy. I don't think the change would take too much work, just amending "personal medical questions" to "health and personal medical questions". $\endgroup$
    – kmm
    Mar 11 '14 at 13:51
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    $\begingroup$ With the opening of Health SE, we can now migrate such questions there. $\endgroup$
    – March Ho
    Apr 26 '15 at 13:30

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