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
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.