Italian study: The Unbearable Lightness of Health Science Reporting

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A study of only one week’s reporting in Italian print publications is published in PLoS One online. Conclusions:

“Our study shows that print health science reporting, one of the major sources of news for clinicians and consumers in Italy has a number of problems that limit its reliability and make it “unbearably light”. Unreported costs and risks, emphasized benefits, undisclosed financial conflicts of interest and exaggerated claims about new medical approaches may create medicalization of non-diseases or incorrectly influence decisions about treatment choices and medical care. As previously pointed out, newspapers do not exist to improve public understanding of health science, but have the potential to contribute to this. Among many examples of incomplete and unbalanced articles, some good reporting results about health can be found. However, this study suggests that there is much room for improvement.”

They cite our work. Not surprisingly, their results are very similar to what we’ve seen now in more than 1,000 stories by more than 70 US news organizations.

(Hat tip to Ed Yong. )

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Laura Newman

March 24, 2010 at 9:32 am

This is hardly surprising, given that someone like Rupert Murdoch heads Italy, a part of the story that nobody seems to have addressed. It does, however, merit some ink.