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What Prevention magazine considers a breakthrough you may not

Some months I can’t wait for my new issue of Prevention magazine to arrive, just so I can see how they’ve stretched the envelope this time.

How about this month’s cover, trumpeting a Cancer Vaccine Breakthrough in big yellow font at lower left of the cover?

So I started flipping through the Table of Contents for the big story.  Hmmm….nothing there.  Odd.

So I started flipping through the pages of tips for “jiggle-proof arms and abs” and such and….voila…on page 13 I found the big story under another “Cancer Breakthrough” heading.

In 16 words in that little box, I learned that a vaccine was “moving into the testing phase.”

Usually, reasonable people would wait until we’ve moved out of the testing phase before declaring something a breakthrough.

But, hey, the cover worked like a publisher’s dream.  It sucked me in. Hiding the 16-word meat of the story away from the Table of Contents sucked me in even further, forcing me to scan the ads and the features that read like ads.

 

Years ago, patients urged me to write my column entitled, “The 7 Words You Shouldn’t Use in Medical News.

Breakthrough was one of them.  This is the kind of story they had in mind.

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Comments (4)

Please note, comments are no longer published through this website. All previously made comments are still archived and available for viewing through select posts.

Dan Rutz

December 9, 2011 at 10:22 am

Impact should another, Gary. It’s especially overused in public health discussion. You had me nervous for a minute…thought you might be coming down on HPV or HBV vaccines. Both approach the “B word” for populations who’ve embraced them. We have a ways to go with the former in this country, and across much of Asia with the latter.

Gary Schwitzer

December 13, 2011 at 8:42 am

FYI to readers: Paul Raeburn of the Knight Science Journalism Tracker thinks I let Prevention magazine off easy. Read his post:

http://ksjtracker.mit.edu/2011/12/12/prevention-magazine-a-breakthrough-in-bad-cover-language/

Gary Schwitzer

December 13, 2011 at 8:42 am

FYI to readers: Paul Raeburn of the Knight Science Journalism Tracker thinks I let Prevention magazine off easy. Read his post:

http://ksjtracker.mit.edu/2011/12/12/prevention-magazine-a-breakthrough-in-bad-cover-language/