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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Medical journalism is the dissemination of health-related information through mainstream media outlets. Medical issues are widely reported, and these reports influence doctors, the general public, and the government. The coverage is often criticized for being misleading, inaccurate, or speculative.[1] Several web sites and journals review medical journalism.



News coverage is often criticized for being misleading, inaccurate, or speculative, and this has been traced to several problems that include lack of knowledge by reporters, lack of time to prepare a proper report, and lack of space in the publication.[1] Most news articles fail to discuss important issues such as evidence quality, costs, and risks versus benefits.[2] Although medical news articles often deliver public health messages effectively, they often convey wrong or misleading information about health care, partly when reporters do not know or cannot convey the results of clinical studies, and partly when they fail to supply reasonable context.[3] A 2009 study found small improvements in some areas of medical reporting in Australia, but the overall quality remained poor, particularly in commercial human-interest television programs.[4]

Conflict of interest

Medical journalists also face challenges due to potential conflicts of interest. The pharmaceutical industry has sponsored journalism contests that carry large prizes in cash or in overseas trips. The Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ) urges journalists to consider these contests carefully before entering, and most journalists avoid them. The AHCJ does not accept industry funding, but does accept funding from independent nonprofit foundations and academic medical centers; in contrast, the National Association of Science Writers maintains a much smaller staff and does not accept such funding. The changing nature of news media has caused more reporters to work freelance, outside of traditional news organizations such as major metropolitan newspapers, which may have created more ways to sidestep conflict-of-interest standards, and the rise of blogs has allowed nontraditional providers of news that lack these standards entirely.[5]


Sources for evaluating health-care media coverage include the review websites Behind the Headlines, Health News Review, and Media Doctor (see External links), along with specialized academic journals such as the Journal of Health Communication. Reviews can also appear in the American Journal of Public Health, the Columbia Journalism Review, Ben Goldacre's "Bad Science" column in The Guardian, and others. Health News Review has published criteria for rating news stories.[6]

See also


  1. ^ a b Larsson A, Oxman AD, Carling C, Herrin J (2003). "Medical messages in the media—barriers and solutions to improving medical journalism". Health Expect 6 (4): 323–31. doi:10.1046/j.1369-7625.2003.00228.x. PMID 15040794.  
  2. ^ Schwitzer G (2008). "How do US journalists cover treatments, tests, products, and procedures? an evaluation of 500 stories". PLoS Med 5 (5): e95. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050095. PMID 18507496. Lay summary – Guardian (2008-06-21).  
  3. ^ Dentzer S (2009). "Communicating medical news—pitfalls of health care journalism". N Engl J Med 360 (1): 1–3. doi:10.1056/NEJMp0805753. PMID 19118299.  
  4. ^ Wilson A, Bonevski B, Jones A, Henry D (2009). "Media reporting of health interventions: signs of improvement, but major problems persist". PLoS ONE 4 (3): e4831. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0004831. PMID 19293924. PMC 2652829.  
  5. ^ Greene J (2009). "Pharma's influence on the fourth estate: health care journalists' conflicts also scrutinized". Ann Emerg Med 53 (3): 18A–20A. doi:10.1016/j.annemergmed.2009.01.010. PMID 19244660.  
  6. ^ "How we rate stories". Health News Review. 2008. Retrieved 2009-03-26.  

External links



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