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Several Media Outlets Overhype Very Early Stem Cell Research

Journalist Larry Husten, on his Cardiobrief blog, writes, “Hype Aside, Hope for Stem Cell Therapy May Be Emerging From Hibernation.

It was one of the only notes of caution we saw in our limited sampling of news stories about an analysis of an experimental stem cell intervention in 14 people – only 8 of whom were followed for a year. Husten wrote:

“Two small studies of cardiac stem cells for the treatment of heart failure have shown promise, but ABC News, CBS News and other media outlets are throwing around words like “medical breakthrough” and “heart failure cure.” ABC News correspondent Richard Besser was so enthusiastic that anchor Diane Sawyer commented that she had never seen him “so excited.” The first author of one of the studies, Roberto Bolli, said the work could represent “the biggest advance in cardiology in my lifetime.”

The reality may be somewhat more prosaic.” Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Gary Schwitzer's HealthNewsReview Blog*

Coffee And Prostate Cancer: The Quality Of News Reports Varies Significantly

We simply don’t know why more news organizations can’t do an adequate job of explaining the limitations of observational studies – most notably, that they can’t prove cause and effect.

Yes, they can show strong associations. But they can’t prove cause and effect.

NBC Nightly News, as one example recently, inadequately explained the latest suggestion that coffee consumption can lower the risk of prostate cancer. In the anchor lead, Brian Williams framed this as another case of flip-flopping science, lightheartedly talking about what they say about “all those medical studies…if you don’t like the findings, wait for the next study.”

The story seemed puzzled at how the same “lab” 30 years ago reported that coffee was linked to an increase in pancreatic cancer. NBC said the researchers later said they got it wrong. This time – with the prostate cancer link – they say they got it right. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Gary Schwitzer's HealthNewsReview Blog*

The Autism-Vaccine Fraud: The Difference One Journalist Can Make

The BMJ’s statement this week that the 1998 article by Andrew Wakefield and 12 others “linking MMR vaccine and autism was fraudulent” demonstrates what a difference one journalist can make. Journalist Brian Deer played a key role in uncovering and dismantling the Wakefield story.

(Of course, others recently have said something similar about The Daily Show comedian Jon Stewart’s role in focusing on the health problems of 9/11 first responders.)

CNN’s Anderson Cooper had a segment worth watching, including a new interview Cooper conducted with Wakefield via Skype:

Unfortunately, journalism played a key role in promoting Wakefield’s claims. The “Respectful Insolence” blog referred to one journalist as “CBS’ resident anti-vaccine propagandist.” Around the world there were many other examples of journalists’ unquestioning acceptance of the vaccine scares.

The BMJ reminds us that “the damage to public health continues, fuelled by unbalanced media reporting and an ineffective response from government, researchers, journals, and the medical profession.”

*This blog post was originally published at Gary Schwitzer's HealthNewsReview Blog*

Smokeless Tobacco And The U.S. Launch Of Snus

This week the respected CBS documentary news show “60 Minutes” included a feature on smokeless tobacco, focusing on the recent launch of snus in the United States. The show was relatively balanced in focusing on the main potential risks and benefits of snus.

It started by featuring a young man who enjoys using snus in places where he cannot smoke, while continuing with a pack-a-day smoking addiction. The interviewer gave him the bad news: “You are a dual user.”

It then had a segment with the widely respected Swedish nicotine addiction expert, Dr Karl Fagerstrom, who stated that snus is 90-99% less harmful than smoking (while admitting some risks, including of pancreatic cancer). Read more »

This post, Smokeless Tobacco And The U.S. Launch Of Snus, was originally published on Healthine.com by Jonathan Foulds, Ph.D..

Dr. Jon LaPook On CBS News: What Happened To Healthcare Reform?


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Why aren’t Americans in the streets, demanding reform of a health care system that is providing inadequate care for millions, wildly inefficient, and gradually bankrupting our country? A major reason: proponents of reform have lost control over the message because people think it’s too complicated to understand. Confused about important details of the proposals, the public is susceptible to misrepresentations by opponents. Read more »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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