Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

How to make sense of articles in scientific journals

Have you ever come across a scientific article and it just seems too dense to read? And you want to share the information with your health care provider or a family member or friend?
Here’s some tips that just might help out!

From a Web page at the National Institutes of Health (A US government agency)

Know the Science: 9 Questions To Help You Make Sense of Health Research

Almost every day, new findings on medical research are published, some of which may include complementary health approaches.

Research studies about medical treatments and practices published in scientific journals are often the sources of news stories and can be important tools in helping you manage your health.

sight + document = understanding

But finding scientific journal articles, understanding the studies they describe, and interpreting the results can be challenging.

One way to make it easier to understand information you find in a scientific journal is to share the information with your health care providers and get their opinions. Once you understand the basics and terminology of scientific research, you have one more tool to help you make better, informed decisions about your health.

Here are 9 questions that can help you make sense of a scientific research article.

The article goes on to answer 9 questions, including

January 6, 2018 Posted by | Health Education (General Public), Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

5 resolutions for reading and writing about health care in 2018 [Via HealthNewsReview.org]

From my “go to” place on how to evaluate health news stories

As the season of New Year’s resolutions rolls around, it’s inevitable: Health and fitness stories will dominate our news feeds in the next few days and weeks. To help both writers and readers of healthcare information, we’ve put together a few resolutions that are handy now–and any time of year:

Read–and heed–our 10 newly refurbished criteria for health news reporting and news release writing. If a news story or news release meets most or all of our criteria, you can have a greater degree of confidence that the information is accurate, balanced and complete. While the criteria are most relevant for new treatments, procedures or medical devices, they also apply to diet trends and fitness fads that are popular news topics this time of year.

Be careful with screening advice. Some surprisingly common recommendations in health care stories aren’t actually supported by high-quality evidence. For example, this NBC News story lists an annual physical as a top resolution. However, evidence-basehhd guidelines say that if you’re healthy with no symptoms, such physicals are unlikely to help you stay well and live longer. And they can lead to additional tests and treatments that may do more harm than good. This is also true for many cancer screening tests. One important reality: Cancer screenings are often unequivocally framed as important because “early detection saves lives” — messaging that minimizes the potential harms that people need to know about.

 

More at https://www.healthnewsreview.org/2018/01/4-resolutions-for-reading-and-writing-about-healthcare-in-2018/

 

January 6, 2018 Posted by | Health Education (General Public) | , , | Leave a comment

Resources from the Association of Health Care Journalists

Screen Shot 2013-12-08 at 11.22.04 AM

From the Resource page

The Association of Health Care Journalists offers a wide range of resources – many of which are available exclusively to members.

AHCJ publications include our newsletter, HealthBeat, as well as several guides to covering specific aspects of health and health care.

Members share ideas and ask questions of fellow members on the AHCJ electronic mailing list. Tip sheets are prepared for our conferences and workshops, often offering sources and information about covering specific stories.

Contest entries are from the Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism, recognizing the best health reporting in print, broadcast and online media. We have links to past winners and information culled from questionnaires submitted with the entries about how each story was researched and written.

We include links to some recent reports and studies of interest to our membership, as well as links to Web sites relevant to health care.

Members and other journalists write articles specifically for AHCJ about how they have reported a story, issues that our members are likely to cover and other important topics.

 

 

 

 

December 8, 2013 Posted by | Educational Resources (High School/Early College(, Health Education (General Public), Health Statistics, Librarian Resources, Medical and Health Research News, Tutorials/Finding aids | , , , , | Leave a comment

[Repost] Health News Stories On Local Television News Broadcasts Are Too Short

From the 21 October 2013 article at ScienceDaily

Previous research has shown that the most popular way Americans get their health news is by watching local television broadcasts. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri School of Journalism have found that while local television news is the most common source of health news for Americans, most health news stories on local news broadcasts are only 30 seconds or less in length. Glen Cameron, the Maxine Wilson Gregory Chair in Journalism Research and professor of strategic communication at the MU School of Journalism, says this trend may lead to misunderstanding of important but complicated health news stories.

“This pattern of local health news reporting may be problematic because of the complex and rather technical nature of many health news stories,” Cameron said. “For example, there is much medical jargon such as “pseudoephedrine,” “dementia,” or “cardiovascular arrest,” involved with reporting health news; stories that are too short can leave viewers confused and inappropriately alarmed or complacent. In this sense, health news may need to be allocated more time to be truly beneficial to viewers.”

Read the entire article here

 

October 22, 2013 Posted by | Health Education (General Public) | , , , , | Leave a comment

The State of Health Journalism in the U.S., March 2009 (old but still true)

“When I started, we had a stand-alone science/health section
and several people covering various aspects of the beat—health
policy/insurance, consumer health, and biosciences. Now
there’s only one person left with any medical journalism
training and that person is covering higher education.”

–15-year newspaper reporter laid off in 2008

 

“The pressure to produce from my editor blunts your ambition
because you know if you have a choice of a story you can turn
around in a week as opposed to one that may take 2- 3 times
as long, you have to juggle. You make choices based on the
stories you choose not to pursue. And that’s where readers
come out losers. That’s particularly true on health policy
and insurance. How ambitious am I going to be on this
story? Do I feel encouraged to do this kind of reporting
or” not? Those are dilemmas I face regularly.

–Major-market newspaper reporter

 

From the summary

This report provides a snapshot of the current state of health journalism in the U.S. today. It is based on a literature review of more than 100 published pieces of research on health journalism; on a survey of members of the Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ), conducted by the Foundation and AHCJ; and on informal one-on-one interviews conducted by the author of this report with more than 50 journalists who work (or worked) for newspapers, radio and TV stations, magazines, and Web sites in small and large markets.

Excerpts from the report

The cuts in budget and personnel that so many newsrooms are facing contribute to several troubling trends in the content of health journalism:

  •  An emphasis on stories that can be produced quickly—often meaning more stories on medical studies, and sometimes sacrificing on quality.
  •  Fewer in-depth or complex stories, especially about health policy, and more “hyper-local” stories along with stories variously described as lifestyle, consumer, or news-you-can-use.
  • Reliance on stories produced and syndicated elsewhere, by non-traditional news sources.
  • The influence of commercial interests on health news, through video news releases (VNRs), sponsored news segments, free syndicated news segments from health providers, and the influence of PR firms steering the news.

    [Janice’s note…I am thinking of local hospitals who provide articles and interviews on the latest (expensive) procedures to the local media. Yes, hospitals are commercial interests. Seldom do these articles or interviews go into details about evidence, cost, or appropriateness.]

……….

There is an undeniably widespread trend in TV news—often in health news—to label
as news some content which has been provided by industry sources who covet publicity in news programming. This practice takes several forms:

  • Video news releases (VNRs) – produced and distributed by those promoting a product or cause. They are produced to look exactly like high-quality TV news packages. They are usually supplied on videotape or via satellite feed along with a script so that stations can put their own reporter’s face and voice on the story.
  • Sponsored health news – usually paid for by a local medical center and featuring professionals from that medical center. The fact that these segments are paid for, and that they include only certain perspectives, is usually not disclosed.
  • Free news segments from health providers – produced by medical centers, featuring only professionals from that organization.

“My biggest challenge? …Trying to figure who’s paying for what
pitch, who’s paying for what health campaign. There’s dollars
attached to everything.”

–Veteran reporter

 

What’s a reader to do? Start by reading articles thoughtfully. Look for clues for completeness, strength of evidence, conflicts of interest, and authorship.

A few good resources on how to analyze medical and health news stories.

 

January 2, 2013 Posted by | Health Education (General Public) | , , , | Leave a comment

Howard Hughes Medical Institute Bulletin (videos, interactive graphics, audio slideshows, and more!)

Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Howard Hughes Medical Institute (Photo credit: Mark Warner)

 

“Reblog” from the Scout Report

 

 

Howard Hughes Medical Institute Bulletin

 

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/hhmi-bulletin/id411540287?mt=8

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) is a remarkable institution that stands at the forefront of research in a wide range of medical fields. This site provides access to the HHMI Bulletin via the iPad in a format that is most visually stimulating. On this site, visitors can browse screen shots of this most wondrous compendium, complete with exclusive videos, interactive graphics, and audio slideshows. Visitors with iPads who download the app can learn about the latest cancer research, along with fun primers of the basic work of the HHMI and updates about long-term projects. Those without iPads are still strongly encouraged to check out the H HMI Bulletin, available here: http://www.hhmi.org/bulletin/. [KMG]

 

 

December 1, 2012 Posted by | Educational Resources (High School/Early College(, Health Education (General Public) | , , | Leave a comment

Live Science – Commercial Site of Science, Health, and Technology News since 2004

 

This morning I stumbled upon LiveScience.com while perusing January’s Internet Reviews at College and Research Library News.

Live Science provide news in the areas of science, health, and technology for a general academic audience, especially undergraduates.It is a commercial site that is part of the TechMedia Network (which also includes TechNews Daily and Business News Daily). LiveScience content is often featured at partner sites including Yahoo and MSNBC.com. Most of the professional journalists on the editorial staff  hold advanced degrees in technology or the sciences.

The site can be a big overwhelming at first with its images and video links, but there is wealth of information for the patient!
The features include:

  • 11 subject areas in the bar at the top of the page – “Space,” “Animals,” “Health,” “Environment,” “Technology,” “History,” “Culture,” “Video,” Strange News,” “Images,” and “Topics.”
  • “Top Stories” section typically presents five current news items along with a variety of rotating images.
  • Images  (containing considerable archives)  with links to albums, infographics, and wallpapers

 

 

 

February 9, 2012 Posted by | Educational Resources (High School/Early College(, Finding Aids/Directories, Health News Items, Librarian Resources, Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

FCC seeks to change regulation of corporate interests disclosures on TV news (including local hospital segments on the news)

Those health news segments on the local news might not be as unbiased as they appear!

From the 3 January 2012 Washington Post article by Paul Farhi

V newscasts are increasingly seeded with corporate advertising masquerading as news — and the federal government wants to do something about it.

Concerned that subtle “pay-for-play” marketing ploys are seeping into the news, the Federal Communications Commission has proposed a regulation that would require the nation’s 1,500 commercial TV stations to disclose online the corporate interests behind the news….

“Unless you stick around for the end credits, you’re unlikely to know it’s payola,” said Corie Wright, senior policy counsel for Free Press, a media watchdog group backing the FCC proposal. “If broadcasters were required to put it online, you could check to see if it was actually sponsored or not.”

The proposed regulation is aimed at news programs that appear to viewers to be the work of independent journalists, but in fact sponsors have shaped or even dictated the coverage.

A common form of advertiser-supplied content, documented in a recent Washington Post article, is a live interview segment in which a seemingly neutral reviewer recommends a series of products that the “reviewer” has been paid by sponsors to mention. Stations across the country have also brokered “exclusive” relationships with local hospitals in which the hospitals pay the station to be featured in health stories.  [my emphasis] Other stations have aired “news” programs that feature interviews with sponsors who’ve paid for the privilege.

According to an FCC report, many stations also use “video news releases,” footage produced by a sponsor or corporate interest that looks like it was shot by the station.

Under current law, such arrangements aren’t illegal,

 

February 8, 2012 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Federal Policy Initiatives To Boost Health Literacy Can Help The Nation Move Beyond The Cycle Of Costly ‘Crisis Care’ [With Related Resources]

Health literacy used to be thought of as a problem individuals had in understanding health information and making health decisions. Now health literacy is beginning to be viewed in more holistic terms. For example, health care providers (from nurses to institutions) now view themselves as having roles in providing relevant understandable information to patients and the public.
What brought about this change in focus? According to the article below, major health policy initiatives at the federal level, including the “Plain Writing Act of 2010, which requires all new publications, forms, and publicly distributed documents from the federal government to be written in a “clear, concise, well-organized” manner.”

A good summary of this change in direction and focus may be found within the article…
New Federal Policy Initiatives To Boost Health Literacy Can Help The Nation Move Beyond The Cycle Of Costly ‘Crisis Care’

Here is an abstract of the article (in the journal Health Affairs, January 12, 2012)

Health literacy is the capacity to understand basic health information and make appropriate health decisions. Tens of millions of Americans have limited health literacy—a fact that poses major challenges for the delivery of high-quality care. Despite its importance, health literacy has until recently been relegated to the sidelines of health care improvement efforts aimed at increasing access, improving quality, and better managing costs. Recent federal policy initiatives, including the Affordable Care Act of 2010, the Department of Health and Human Services’ National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy, and the Plain Writing Act of 2010, have brought health literacy to a tipping point—that is, poised to make the transition from the margins to the mainstream. If public and private organizations make it a priority to become health literate, the nation’s health literacy can be advanced to the point at which it will play a major role in improving health care and health for all Americans…

In years past, clinicians and researchers alike largely viewed these issues and outcomes in terms of individual patient deficits—that is, a patient’s lack of knowledge and skills regarding health issues. We now recognize that health literacy is a dynamic systems issue,2 reflecting the complexity of both the health information being presented and the health care system being navigated.3 As summarized by the Institute of Medicine, addressing the challenge of health literacy requires system-level changes for both health professionals and organizations…

It is impossible to list all relevant related resources here!
A small sampling..

Health Literacy Library Guides (while aimed at professionals, librarians, etc, some have links to materials for the rest of us)

Great places to start for health information on many topics (diseases, conditions, talking with health care professionals, etc)

(More Great Places here)

  • MedlinePlus – Over 750 topics on conditions, diseases, and wellness.  Information ondrugs, herbs, and supplements. Links to directories (health care providers, health care facilities, etc) and organizations which provider health information. Surgery videos, informative slideshows, and more.
  • Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality – Consumers and Patients
    the latest evidence based information for improving your health, including podcasts and videos
  • Familydoctor.org includes health information for the whole family
    Short generalized information on Diseases and Conditions (with A-Z index), Health Information for Seniors, Men, and Women, Healthy Living Topics, pages geared to Parents & Kids, and videos.  Numerous health tools in the left column (as health trackers, health assessments, and a Search by Symptom page.

  • KidsHealth provides information about health, behavior, and development from before birth through the teen years. Material is written by doctors in understandable language at three levels: parents, kids, and teens
    KidsHealth also provides families with perspective, advice, and comfort about a wide range of physical, emotional, and behavioral issues that affect children and teens.

Understanding Health Research

  • “Summaries for Patients”  are short summaries of studies and clinical guidelines (how medicine is best practiced) are  published in Annals of Internal Medicine.
    [Go to Summaries for Patients, scroll down a little, the right column has  link to all summaries and a search box ]Summaries about studies describe how researchers did the published study and what they found.
    Summaries about clinical guidelines describe the official recommendations for patient care
  • patientINFORM plain language summary Web sites are provided by participating publishers to help patients or their caregivers more fully understand the implications of research and to provide links to the full text of research articles they’ve selected from participating journals. The publishers allow readers following links from patientINFORM material on the health organizations’ sites to access the full text of these articles without a subscription, and they provide patients and caregivers with free or reduced-fee access to other articles in participating journals.
  • Cochrane Collaboration provides systematic reviews (thorough summaries) of the strongest evidence available about healthcare interventions (as drugs and medical procedures).  It does not cover all interventions, but those covered were reviewed  in-depth by experts in the medical and library fields.
    • Here is how to find plain language  and audio summaries of Cochrane reviewsGo to the Cochrane Collaboration home page and scroll down to Browse Free Summaries.
      Topics include Breast Cancer, Dementia and Cognitive Improvement, and Complementary Medicine.
      Click on To the Cochrane Library in the upper right corner of the Cochrance Collaboration home page.
      This Cochrane Library search page has a Help page , and an Advanced Search option.
  • HealthNewsReview.org – Independent Expert Reviews of News Stories
    The site is dedicated to

    • Improving the accuracy of news stories about medical treatments, tests, products and procedures.
    • Helping consumers evaluate the evidence for and against new ideas in health care.

Health News Review includes

January 28, 2012 Posted by | Finding Aids/Directories, Librarian Resources | , , , , , | 1 Comment

HealthNewsReview.org – Independent Expert Reviews of News Stories

Health News Review

HealthNewsReview.org – Independent Expert Reviews of News Stories

Health News Review includes reviews of health articles in the news.Their objective criteria includes these factors…

The Web site also includes a toolkit – “a number of tipsheets, primers, links and other resources to help journalists and consumers do a better job of evaluating claims about health care interventions”

From their About Page

HealthNewsReview.org is a website dedicated to:

  • Improving the accuracy of news stories about medical treatments, tests, products and procedures.
  • Helping consumers evaluate the evidence for and against new ideas in health care.

We support and encourage the ABCs of health journalism.

  • Accuracy
  • Balance
  • Completeness
Related Resources
How to Read a Research Paper (and also Understand Health News Research Items) (jflahiff.wordpress.com)
patientInform
 “The goal of patientINFORM is to allow patients, their family members and anyone interested in learning more about a specific disease or its treatment to access the most important new research articles through the web sites ofparticipating health organizations or publishers. Participating health organizations provide interpretation of research articles, in the form of summaries or news items written to be understood by nonphysician, nonscientist readers..
Understanding medical research (MedlinePlus) – links to overviews, related issues, and information from organizations
Related articles

 

December 31, 2011 Posted by | Educational Resources (High School/Early College(, Health Education (General Public) | , , , , , | Leave a comment

It is a rare medical story that gets high marks

Home page illustrating latest story reviews an...

Image via Wikipedia

From a September 2011 article at KevinMD.com

Like you, I receive a whole bunch of breaking medical news every day, from television, radio, newspapers, direct mail, email alerts, press releases, and multiple websites.

Is any of it worth my time, my attention, or even a change in my knowledge, attitude, behavior, or medical practice? How can I quickly tell?

A medical journalist from Minnesota named Gary Schwitzer recognized this problem many years ago and created a service that will help all of us, in and outside of medicine and medical journalism, to spend our time and direct our attention wisely.

 

Schwitzer’s service is called Health News Review and widely publicizes a set of criteria to apply to medical stories reported in the popular media.

While his approach cannot prevent fraud, liars, and fabricators, a careful use of his criteria can help the reader filter out what is likely to be real junk, or even worse, harmful.

Medical Reporting Rules to live (or die) by:

  1. How available is the treatment/test/product/procedure to the likely reader/viewer/listener at the time of the report?
  2. What is the cost or charge for the test/treatment/product or procedure mentioned in the story? To the patient? The insurance company? The government?
  3. Is there evidence of disease mongering in the story? Does it oversell or exaggerate a condition or create unwarranted fear?
  4. Does the story seem to grasp and convey the quality of the evidence supporting the basis for the study?
  5. Does the article provide appropriate balance about harms that might be caused by the treatment/test/product/procedure that constitutes the basis for the story?
  6. Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach? Much that is purported to be new, really is not.
  7. How does the story frame the relative quantitative value of a new treatment, test, product, or procedure and place the benefits in context with others, especially dealing with absolute and relative values?
  8. Did the author and editor of the medical news story rely solely or largely on a press release or did they also seek and quote other sources?
  9. Was there an independent source and were any possible conflicts of interests of sources disclosed in the article?
  10. Does the story provide the context of treatment/test/product/procedure other than those that are being reported?

October 15, 2011 Posted by | Health News Items | , , | Leave a comment

   

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