Most people learn of medical progress through the media. Scarcely a day passes without a report of a health development, and how it might affect you. Yet this news is often unhelpful. Exaggerated cures, contradictions, and plainly misleading information can do harm. Reported information in the popular media may be confusing and counterproductive. The problem is not the science, but how journalists report it and how it is interpreted.
Understanding how science progresses and how it is reported can help make sense of health news. Most medical facts are established through experiment. Well designed, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trials provide the best evidence.
Tips for understanding media news reports
- Consider the media outlet's reputation for reliability and independence
- Look at the credibility of the reporter or outlet
- Consider the source
- Beware of extravagant claims
- Beware of anecdotal reports