Health News Review
  • Jun 23 2010

    Wisdom of the crowds: news consumers tired of misinterpreted observational studies

    People are not dumb. Even if – or maybe especially if – news stories don’t point out the limitations of observational studies and the fact that they can’t establish cause-and-effect, many readers seem to get it. Here are some of the online user comments in response to a story that is headlined, “Coffee may cut risk for some cancers.” * “i love how an article starts with something positive…

  • May 14 2010

    Explaining limitations of observational studies – in an online video

    The MDiTV service presents a nice little package explaining the difference between observational studies and experimental trials. I was interviewed by young journalist Amira Dughri for this segment – my first Skype video interview right from my home office! And my friend Andrew Holtz anchors the segment, explaining therein that he is also one of our story reviewers on Take a look by visiting this link. This segment…

  • Jan 22 2015

    Coffee & melanoma: add to annals of abused translation of observational research

    The annals of confusing news stories about observational studies showing an association between coffee and…fill in the blank…have a new entry. Do a Google search for “coffee and melanoma” and you’ll get thousands of returns. Many of these stories inappropriately used causal language – suggesting that a cause-and-effect had been proven, when it hadn’t. TIME, for example, headlined it, “This Drink C…

  • Mar 19 2012

    BMJ news releases, observational studies, overstatement

    …hs of the press release continue in that same conclusive and important sounding vein only to end with this last line, “In an accompanying editorial, Dr Bruce Neal from the University of Sydney suggests that more, bigger studies are needed to substantiate the research hypothesis that white rice increases the chances of getting type 2 diabetes.“ Guess which 7 of 8 press release paragraphs the media paid attention to? Here are a sampling…

  • Aug 19 2014

    Yay for a BMJ journal news release for including caveats about an observational study!

    area in which a person lives can negatively affect their cardiovascular health. This includes, for example, the density of fast food outlets; levels of violence, noise, and pollution; drug use; and building disrepair. But few studies have looked at the potential health enhancing effects of positive local neighbourhood characteristics, such as perceived neighbourhood social cohesion, say the authors. They therefore tracked the cardiovascular healt…

  • Oct 25 2011

    Another day, another slew of misleading media messages on observational study

    I know you’re probably tired of reading about it. Frankly, I get a bit weary of writing about it. But as long as journalists continue to use the wrong language to describe observational studies, I’m going to keep plugging away. This recurring flaw was one of three I identified in a popular blog post last week, “How the News Media May Hurt – Not Help – Health Literacy Efforts.” Observational studies canR…

  • Aug 29 2011

    Unwrapping today’s chocolate story: troublesome BMJ news release

    …Klomangino. ——————————————————————————- Misreporting of Observational Studies: Can Scientific Journals Help? Readers of this blog know that there can be a huge gap between what scientific evidence tells us and what gets reported to the public by the media. And perhaps nowhere does this chasm y…

  • Sep 18 2007

    Another news story about the limitations of some studies

    Yesterday we profiled a Wall Street Journal column about the statistical flaws in some studies. Today we point out a Los Angeles Times column that gives readers a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of epidemiologic studies. Excerpts: “(Critics say that) far too many of these epidemiological studies — in which the habits and other factors of large populations of people are tracked, sometimes for years — are…

  • Jun 11 2014

    BMJ news release on red meat & breast cancer may have misled reporters again

    …journalism that Jon Stewart has mocked on the Daily Show.) The Daily Show Get More: Daily Show Full Episodes,Indecision Political Humor,The Daily Show on Facebook In this case, if you don’t understand observational studies, or you don’t understand what “association ≠ causation” means, and you have a major medical journal’s news release using causal language….but you’re still confused or uncertainR…

  • Feb 23 2012

    Colon cancer screening news coverage all over the map & readers are probably lost

    A couple of studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) don’t present as clearcut a picture of colon cancer screening evidence as some stories might suggest. One study pointed to benefits of colonoscopy screening.  Another described potential benefits of a form of blood stool testing called Fecal Immunochemical Testing (FIT). An editorial in the NEJM attempted to give perspective on both studies. The Los Angeles Times …

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