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Special Communication |

A Guide to Reading Health Care News Stories

Gary Schwitzer, BA1
[+] Author Affiliations
1Office of the Dean, University of Minnesota School of Public Health, Minneapolis
JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(7):1183-1186. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.1359.
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From April 16, 2006, through May 30, 2013, a team of reviewers from HealthNewsReview.org, many of whom were physicians, evaluated the reporting by US news organizations on new medical treatments, tests, products, and procedures. After reviewing 1889 stories (approximately 43% newspaper articles, 30% wire or news services stories, 15% online pieces [including those by broadcast and magazine companies], and 12% network television stories), the reviewers graded most stories unsatisfactory on 5 of 10 review criteria: costs, benefits, harms, quality of the evidence, and comparison of the new approach with alternatives. Drugs, medical devices, and other interventions were usually portrayed positively; potential harms were minimized, and costs were ignored. Our findings can help journalists improve their news stories and help physicians and the public better understand the strengths and weaknesses of news media coverage of medical and health topics.

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The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
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