Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[UK Physician Authored Blog]: Private Health Screening- What to Think About When You’re Thinking About Screening Tests

Fr0m the blog

We are a group of doctors who are concerned about the safety and the ethics of private screening tests. We are worried that the companies who charge you for these tests are not giving consumers full and fair information about them. You can read more about this here. You can see some examples of misleading advertising here. You can see our critique of two of these adverts here. You can see what other doctors and patients think, and add your comments here. You can read about us here..


it’s important to balance the pros and cons of tests with reliable information so that you can decide whether you want to have them done or not. Many screening tests are done within the NHS and have been approved by the UK National Screening Committee. This organisation examines the balance of risk and benefit and makes recommendations about what the NHS should provide…


Click on the links below to see some of the reasons we are worried about private health screening tests:

October 16, 2012 Posted by | Health Education (General Public) | , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Ethics of commercial screening tests: choice should be informed by evidence, not advertising claims


From the 28 August 2012 post at

An opinion piece in the Annals of Internal Medicine, “Ethics of Commercial Screening Tests,” makes a strong, clear statement about the problems with many screening test campaigns offered by commercial companies in partnerships with churches, pharmacies, shopping malls or trusted medical organizations. Excerpts:

“Particular concerns about “the use of ultrasonography (for example, ultrasonography of the carotid arteries to assess for plaques and stenosis, ultrasonography of the heel to assess for osteoporosis, and echocardiography) in the direct-to-consumer screening market as a driver of expensive and unnecessary care.

When screenings are provided in a church and sponsored by a trusted medical organization, consumers may have a false sense of trust in the quality and appropriateness of services provided. Consumers are generally unaware of the potential harms of screening.

Because of a lack of counseling by these companies about the potential risks of an “abnormal” test result, the consumer is initially unaware that this may open a Pandora’s box of referrals and additional testing to monitor or treat these abnormal findings. Our medical system and society bear the cost of poor coordination of care and additional testing and treatment to follow up on unnecessary “abnormal” screening test results.  That most of these tests are not medically indicated in the first place is left undisclosed to the consumer, nor is there a discussion of potential adverse consequences or additional costs.

Advocates of widespread screening may argue that if patients know that they have disease, they will be more likely to engage in behavior modification. However, evidence does not support this hypothesis.

We respect patients’ autonomy to make their own medical decisions. However, choices should be informed by evidence, not such advertising claims as, “the ultrasound screenings that we offer can help save your life.” Patients can be coerced through unsubstantiated, misleading statements or omission of factual information into obtaining tests where the actual risk may outweigh the proven benefit. In direct-to-consumer advertising of pharmaceuticals, companies are required to disclose the potential risks of taking a medication. We believe that commercial screening companies should also be obligated to disclose from published guidelines the recommended indications and benefits of testing, as well as the potential risks and harms.”


I’ve written about these commercial screening campaigns in the past.

One year ago at this time – the time of the annual Minnesota State Fair – I wrote about how a local TV station co-sponsored a prostate cancer screening campaign.  This year, it does not appear that the prostate screens are being done.  But ultrasounds of the heel to check for osteoporosis – one of the very specific issues highlighted as a special cause for concern in the journal editorial cited above, continue.  KARE-11 TV of Minneapolis states on its website:

“Put your best foot forward and find out your bone density.  Health Strategies will be providing heel scan ultrasound bone density screenings at the fair.”

The TV station promotes this as “Know Your Numbers.”  Maybe they should know the evidence (or lack thereof) for some of what they’re promoting.

Other related past posts:



September 6, 2012 Posted by | health care | , | Leave a comment

[Reblog with additional resources/related articles] Focus on screening tests


[Reblog from HealthNewsReviewBlog, 20 July 2012]
I’m off to the Rockies next week to speak at and participate in The Rocky Mountain Workshop on How to Practice Evidence-Based Health Care at the invitation of Dr. Andy Oxman of theNorwegian Knowledge Centre for the Health Services in Oslo.

This is the 14th annual workshop but this will be my first. I’ve always heard wonderful things about it from past participants – journalists, policymakers and public health professionals.

One of this year’s workshop themes will be screening tests – which any reader of this blog knows is a favorite topic of mine.

The organizers state:

The five-day workshop is an intense, hands-on learning experience that uses a small-group, problem-based approach to learning.

One of the small groups, supported by the NIH Office of Disease Prevention, will focus on using evidence to inform and improve reporting, policy decisions, public health decisions, clinical and personal decisions about screening.

Meantime, on the topic of screening, I finally read Alan Cassels’ book, “Seeking Sickness:  Medical Screening and the Misguided Hunt for Disease.“  Alan published the Canadian equivalent of our project – the Canadian Media Doctor site. He’s let that project gather some dust while he works on other things like this book.  I can’t quite seem to ever find time for my book idea because I’m so married to this site.  Maybe he’s wiser. It seems impossible to do both.

Related Resources



July 24, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health | , | Leave a comment


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