Pernicious PR Promotion of Overdiagnosis – my talk at Barcelona conference

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Preventing Overdiagnosis logoI attended and spoke at the Preventing Overdiagnosis conference in Barcelona last week. It drew a large international audience – including representatives from Argentina, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Switzerland  – an incomplete list, to be sure. Included among the attendees were three other people who work on Alan Cassels, Dr. Saurabh Jha, and Dr. Jim Rickert.

The topic of overdiagnosis is now drawing so much attention that one session was entitled, “Around the world in 80 names: exploring global variation in terminology pertaining to ‘preventing overdiagnosis.’ ” Here’s a slide from that session:

Overdiagnosis themes

As the slide suggests, there are a lot of different concerns represented under the overdiagnosis banner and it has no single, broadly accepted definition. Some suggest “too much medicine” as a catch-all phrase for representing the issue to the public.

Peruse the program with me and you’ll see the wide-ranging topics that were discussed in an overdiagnosis context: osteoporosis (bone density screening), overuse of MRI, preterm labor overdiagnosis, PSA screening, mammography screening, cervical cancer screening, colorectal cancer screening, abdominal aortic aneurysm screening, genetic screening, ADHD, cardiac genomics, dementia, amyloid PET scans, thyroid cancer, polycystic ovary syndrome, low back pain, etc.  This is a woefully incomplete list from a 3-day conference.  If you follow us regularly, you know that we’ve touched on most of these themes in what we’ve written through the years.

And then there was my 90-minute session, “Pernicious Promotion of Overdiagnosis in PR News Releases.” It was not difficult for me to come up with examples from our 18 months of reviewing 250 PR news releases so far.

At the conference, I recorded a couple of podcasts interviews, which I’ll be producing over the next few days/weeks, touching on some of the innovative media approaches that some researchers have begun taking to address overdiagnosis issues.  Stay tuned.

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