People should have known more about USPSTF all along

For a long time, I’ve urged health care journalists to refer to the recommendations of the US Preventive Services Task Force and to educate readers/viewers about how the group operates.

Perhaps one of the reasons the task force’s recommendations this week caught so many people by surprise is that journalism hasn’t done a good enough job of:

• explaining the uncertainties that still exist and always have existed about mammography
• explaining the work of the USPSTF

Gina Kolata of the NYT offers somewhat of a backgrounder/explainer today.

All of their work – how they do it – what they base their recommendations on -who they are – is available online – and has been.

Since they’re an independent group of experts from across the country, they have no PR machine like the American Cancer Society does. So it’s easy for the ACS to rule the airwaves and the columns when they disagree with something the USPSTF states.

But I think journalists have failed badly in explaining this work. And the harm done to evidence-based medicine this week may be lasting.

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Comments

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Michael Kirsch, M.D

November 22, 2009 at 10:07 am

Sebelius was shameful last week in rejecting the guidelines from the USPSTF, a task force that is part of the federal goverment. They are known for their caution and objectivity. Politics won out over science and evidence-based medicine. Is this the future of health care reform? See http://bit.ly/656CwP