Behavior modification for 'White Coat Myopia'

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holtz100x130.jpgThat’s the headline my friend and colleague Andrew Holtz used to top a column he wrote on the Association of Health Care Journalists’ website. (The column is referenced on the AHCJ blog but is available only to AHCJ members. Andrew invited me to pull excerpts.)

He reflects on journalists’ obsession with stories about medical interventions in a high-tech medical model, while encouraging journalists to consider public health angles. Excerpts:

“Sure, we are in the news business … so it’s not enough to repeat the basic advice to eat better and be more active. But if you expand your perspective from a narrow focus on medical interventions, you will find studies, policies and events that relate to health in ways that connect directly to the daily lives of many more people.

How are we doing on smoking? Tracking surveys from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics indicate that tobacco control progress seems to be stalling.

How about obesity and diabetes? Which areas in the country are doing better or worse and what explanations are there?

How has the recession affected heart health? It seems that surgical procedures are down and probably more people are dropping their medicines. Both are related to losses of jobs and insurance. Is the cutback in medical interventions reflected in heart disease outcomes? And if not, what would that say about what the biggest influences on heart health really are?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for spicy stories about gee whiz medical advances and sweet tales of research ingenuity, but like salt and sugar, they shouldn’t dominate the news diet. And they don’t need to. There are piles of powerful and relevant health stories out there that don’t begin and end with doctors in white coats.”

The online members-only version has many helpful tips on resources, complete with links.

So, if you’re a journalist, join AHCJ to get this and other member benefits.

Disclosure: Andrew is also one of our story reviewers and a sometimes-substitute-Publisher for me on

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