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Latest Posts

ACSM Recognizes These Ten Criteria For Responsible Health Reporting

For several years, I’ve been gently nudging various groups that communicate with the public about health care to adopt/endorse/promote the 10 criteria we use on in the same spirit in which we promote them: 10 things we think consumers need addressed in messages about health care interventions.

• What’s the total cost?
• How often do benefits occur?
• How often do harms occur?
• How strong is the evidence?
• Is this condition exaggerated?
• Are there alternative options?
• Is this really a new approach?
• Is it available to me?
• Who’s promoting this?
• Do they have a conflict of interest?

It may not be a perfect or complete list, but it’s not a bad starting point, and we now have data on more than 1,500 stories showing how these are – or are not – addressed in some of the public discussion.

I’ve urged the American Association of Medical Colleges, America’s Health Insurance Plans, news organizations, and news-release-writers, among others, to publish our criteria attached to their news releases or on their websites.

Many have been called. Many have nodded in agreement. None have responded.

Until now. Read more »

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

The Almighty News Release: How They Influence Health Journalism

A new post on the Embargo Watch blog, “The power of the press release: A tale of two fish oil-chemotherapy studies,” addresses an issue that had me running around in circles for hours last week.

cancer.jpg Some news organizations were reporting on a paper in the journal Cancer, reporting that it had been published in that day’s online edition.

But it hadn’t been – not when the stories were published.

Instead, all I could find was a study by the same authors on the same topic that had been published in the same journal two weeks prior.

What apparently happened, as Embargo Watch surmises as well, is that many journalists simply covered what was in the journal’s news release – not what had already been published two weeks prior – which was a more impressive article. And they rushed to publish before the new study had even been posted online – all over a very short-term study in a small number of people. Read more »

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

Ibuprofen-Parkinson’s Study: Few News Organizations Report On It Accurately

We’re delighted to see that USA Today, Reuters, and WebMD were among the news organizations that included what an editorial writer said about an observational study linking ibuprofen use with fewer cases of Parkinson’s disease. All three news organizations used some version of what editorial writer Dr. James Bower of the Mayo Clinic wrote or said:

“Whenever in epidemiology you find an association, that does not mean causation.”
“An association does not prove causation.”
“There could be other explanations for the ibuprofen-Parkinson’s connection.”

Kudos to those news organizations. And some praise goes to the journal Neurology for publishing Dr. Bower’s editorial to accompany the study. His piece is entitled, “Is the answer for Parkinson disease already in the medicine cabinet? Unfortunately not.”

And unfortunately not all news organizations got that message. Because many don’t read the journals, so they certainly never get to the editorials. Instead, they rewrite quick hits off a wire service story. As a result, we end up with some of the following:

A story was particularly deaf to Bower’s caveat, stating: “That bottle of ibuprofen in your medicine cabinet is more powerful than you may think.”

A story never addressed the observational study limitation, instead whimsically writing: “Pop a pill to prevent Parkinson’s disease? A new study says it’s possible, and the pill in question isn’t some experimental marvel that’s still years away from drugstore shelves. It’s plain old ibuprofen.” Read more »

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

Becoming A Savvy Healthcare Consumer: A “Difficult Science”

Dr. Kent Bottles is in the midst of a very thoughtful multi-part blog post under the heading, “The Difficult Science Behind Becoming a Savvy Healthcare Consumer.”

Part I examined “the limitations of science in helping us make wise choices and decisions about our health.”

Part II explores “how we all have to change if we are to live wisely in a time of rapid transformation of the American healthcare system that everyone agrees needs to decrease per-capita cost and increase quality.”

Both parts so far have addressed important issues about news media coverage of healthcare. Read more »

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

Industry Influence Is “An infection”: International Criticism Of Pfizer-Funded Journalism Workshops

Next week, the National Press Foundation offers an “all-expenses-paid, educational program on cancer issues” for journalists, with all expenses paid by Pfizer. I’ve written several times about my criticism of this approach.

The National Press Foundation has offered to let me speak at next week’s event or at a subsequent all-expenses-paid program for journalists on Alzheimer’s disease also underwritten by Pfizer.

I’m unable to attend either event because of prior commitments, but suggested to NPF that they ask Merrill Goozner to speak instead. He’s right in Washington, has written and lectured about conflicts of interest in healthcare, and was available. Goozner told me he has not been contacted. So, since I can’t attend and since critical voices probably won’t be represented at the first workshop, I have posted some video clips of what others might have said if given the opportunity. Read more »

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

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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