More questions about TV health news

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A study in this month’s American Journal of Managed Care (not to be published online until next week) confirms some of what I’ve reported in earlier studies: local TV health news is troublesome. (The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has a story on the study.)

Researchers from the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin-Madison analyzed one month of news coverage on 122 stations in the nation’s top 50 media markets.

A Michigan news release states that: “The average story was 33 seconds long, and most did not give specifics about the source of the information presented. Items about specific diseases tended not to contain recommendations for viewers, or information about how common the disease was – which could help put the news into perspective with other health issues. But most disturbing, the study’s authors say, were the egregious errors contained in a small minority of studies – errors that could have led to serious consequences.”

One author said, “The fact that one of the most-covered stories in the study was about the removal of warts using duct tape, a topic which has questionable public health value, and that the story originated in a press release from a renowned medical journal, shows that we in the health community have work to do.”

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