December 22, 2014
Monday health news roundup: mostly gems, one dud
I realize that I wrote about the following things on my Monday morning email digest, but if you don’t subscribe to that email, you didn’t see what we wrote. (One solution: sign up to subscribe to the emails. It’s free.)
Some things we saw that we really liked:
- Richard Smith’s feature in The BMJ, “Are some diets ‘mass murder’?” Poor nutrition science is a global, uncontrolled experiment that may lead to bad outcomes, he writes.
- Diets often provide the fodder for TV medical talk shows. Another study published in The BMJ concludes: “Recommendations made on medical talk shows often lack adequate information on specific benefits or the magnitude of the effects of these benefits. Approximately half of the recommendations have either no evidence or are contradicted by the best available evidence. Potential conflicts of interest are rarely addressed. The public should be skeptical about recommendations made on medical talk shows.”
- Dr. Ezekiel Emmanuel’s webinar, for ReportingOnHealth.org at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, explaining his controversial, “Why I Hope to Die at 75.”
- On the Journal of the American Medical Association‘s Patient Page, an article and this graphic to help women better understand the tradeoffs between benefits and harms in mammography screening.
On the flip side, another Alzheimer’s story failed on several counts. Dr. Nancy Snyderman, chief medical editor of NBC News, delivered a string of unsubstantiated claims in a story called, “Never Too Young: Seeking an Early Test for Alzheimer’s.”
- She profiled what she called “a unique Alzheimer’s prevention clinic” but never explained what makes it unique, making the piece feel far more promotional than journalistic.
- She profiled a 32-year old man whom she described as having blood work “associated with an increased risk of dementia.” Associated is the key word; she could (should?) have explained there’s no causal link.
- So it may not be surprising that she didn’t challenge the clinic director when he claimed that “musical experience has been proven to delay cognitive decline.” Once again, association does not equal proof of a causal link.
- She ended, “This is the new frontier.” For network television journalism, perhaps.
It’ll be better in 2015, right?
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