Health News Review
  • May 25 2011

    Today’s scorecard on observational study news stories: 2 wins, 1 loss

    Maybe our continued messages about how journalists need to do a better job explaining observational studies are getting through. HealthDay reported on an observational study, emphasizing the limitations: “Research tracking more than 84,000 postmenopausal women for an average of 10 years found that those whose diets included more baked and broiled fish — defined as five or more servings per week — had a 30 percent lower risk of…

  • Sep 26 2014

    Flawed news about skirt size-breast cancer observational study

    …tions of the research. As always, I point journalists to our primer, “Does the Language Fit the Evidence? Association Versus Causation.” It provides good and bad examples of language used to describe observational studies. ————————- Tweet Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/garyschwitzer https://twitter.com/healthnewsrevu and on Facebook. …

  • Aug 20 2013

    Scary coffee stories – add cream and two lumps of caveats

    …not causation.  So causal phrases such as “raises risk” or “can kill you” are unfounded. I always have to remind first-time readers that I’m not knocking the potential importance of observational studies.  They are what they are and they ain’t what they ain’t. At last check there were more than 170 stories about this study that turned up on a simple web search. One of the study authors, in this video, exp…

  • 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 CNN.com 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 HealthNewsReview.org. Take a look by visiting this link. This segment…

  • 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…

  • 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…

  • 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…




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