Please note: After 20 months of offering this free service, we withdrew the offer in late November, 2018 because only a handful of public relations or public information officers had asked for help.
How does it work?
HealthNewsReview.org invites public relations staff to submit their draft health care news releases to us for critiquing prior to publication. The releases are reviewed by teams of three trained reviewers – typically a mix of journalists and clinicians – and the comments are returned directly to the news release authors. The objective is to help improve the flow of health care information before it reaches consumers.
News releases are eligible for review if they focus on a health care intervention such as a drug, medical device, test, procedure, etc. Draft releases should be submitted for pre-review to firstname.lastname@example.org along with a copy of the study the release is summarizing. If it’s an unpublished study being presented at a science or medical meeting, please include the abstract. If you have questions on whether your release is a good fit for the review service, feel free to inquire before submitting your release.
What’s the benefit?
If you’re a news release writer, our service provides you with expert guidance on framing your message so that it’s accurate, balanced, and credible. Our reviewers will make sure the release answers key questions about actual benefits, costs, potential harms, and evidence that the intervention works. This will hopefully improve the quality of information that eventually reaches the public.
Details about our 10 criteria for a strong news release and how they are applied appear on our website. After reviewing 460 news releases since April of 2015, we’ve found that the vast majority of news releases do not satisfactorily address our 5 most important criteria (see table below). Our pre-publication reviews include clear recommendations for addressing what the public needs to know about the intervention.
Percent rated Satisfactory
|Did the release explain how much it costs?||
|Did the release explain how often benefits occur?||
|Did the release explain how often harms occur?||
|Did the release explain the quality of the evidence?||
|Did the release identify funding sources and conflicts of interest?||
Here are a few examples of releases that would have benefited from outside vetting before being launched into the public domain and facing negative public fallout.
- U of Maryland review: researcher on flawed chocolate milk/concussions study failed to disclose big dairy donations
- GWU withdraws news release on negative text messaging study, then doubles down on PR spin
- U of Iowa responds to our criticism of oregano ‘cure’ — and reveals a broken process for promoting its research
What’s the turnaround?
Typically, there’s a 3-day turnaround from the time we get your draft release and the time we return our recommendations. We work with a team of about 35+ busy editorial experts who contribute their knowledge on health care messaging and evidence interpretation to our project — many on a volunteer basis. During crunch times, we may ask for an extended turnaround period. As a non-profit, university-based project dependent on grants and philanthropic support, we ask for patience. If release authors are facing a tight deadline let us know and we will try to accommodate shorter review turnaround times.
Anything else we should know about pre-publication reviews?
HealthNewsReview.org will not publish any review of a news release it has pre-reviewed. All draft releases are handled in the strictest confidence.