Health News Review

“You’ve probably never heard of Dr. Tim Wilt. He doesn’t have a TV show.  No advice column in the newspaper.”

That’s how my friend (and former graduate student) Jeff Baillon of KMSP-TV began his 5 1/2 minute TV news sweeps period piece last night about Dr. Tim Wilt of the Minneapolis VA – a member of the US Preventive Services Task Force.

Yes, you read that correctly:  a 5 1/2 minute TV news all-important sweeps period piece on the apparently-dull topic of an evidence-based doc.  But Baillon, as he often does, would not let medium-specific limitations (gotta be visual, gotta be sexy, “if it bleeds, it leads” etc.) hold him back from telling an important story that TV news rarely shows an interest in.

Here’s the video clip:  let’s hope KMSP doesn’t remove this video after a certain time as it’s done in the past when I’ve tried to promote Baillon’s work.

KMSP-TV

My wife said to me after she saw the piece, “He made it so human.”

Maybe if more journalists met, interviewed, and gave an accurate reflection of who the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) members are – as Baillon did – we would have fewer stories that painted them as:

  • members of a government task force
  • bureaucrats out to cut health care costs
  • uncaring wonks

Nice job, Jeff.

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Addendum more than 4 hours later:  My blog post and Tweet about the story above generated quite a bit of online discussion, including the following exchange between Scott Hensley of the NPR Shots blog and urologist Benjamin J. Davies of Pitt. You can start at the bottom and read up to follow it chronologically.  I’m not sure, though, that the discussion ever rose up out of the bottom.  The urologist Tweeter slams Dr. Timothy Wilt (whom he called “a jerk” in a subsequent Tweet), and USPSTF chair Dr. Virginia Moyer. With Moyer, he rolled out the already-tired claim that a woman pediatrician can’t know anything about evidence regarding prostate cancer.  He says it disgusts him.  There’s really very little value in shedding light on these Tweets except to point out once again how ugly the public dialogue can be when scientific evidence and strongly-held beliefs collide.

Comments

Kenny Lin posted on November 6, 2012 at 10:41 am

I had the privilege of working with Tim Wilt in his role as an evidence reviewer, advisor, and then member of the USPSTF from 2006-2010. All class – thoughtful, considerate, and determined to improve the health of the nation by highlighting the evidence, even if that means telling people that certain screening tests (e.g. PSA) are just about worthless.

Veneta Masson posted on November 6, 2012 at 11:18 am

Nice job, indeed. Kudos to both Baillon and Wilt. Perhaps similar profiles of other Task Force members would indeed reduce the prejudice and fear of those who believe “the government is going to ration health care and keep me from getting the tests I need.” This would then shore up clinicians who experience significant peer pressure and real concern about liability and ratings if they fail to keep on steering their patients toward so-called preventive screening tests.

elizabeth neary, md, ms nutrition posted on November 6, 2012 at 12:34 pm

Great presentation—need to get this word out to general public