Author Archives: Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle

About Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is AHCJ's medical studies core topic leader, guiding journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enabling them to translate the evidence into accurate information.

Research: Finesse, transparency key when reporting foodborne illness outbreaks

Photo: NIH Image Gallery via FlickrSalmonella bacteria invade an immune cell.

A mainstay of health reporting is covering outbreaks of foodborne illness, whether it’s salmonella in peanut butter (and its criminal consequences) or listeria in cantaloupes or ice cream. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintains a robust site documenting food-borne illness outbreaks, by the time the CDC cites a case on its website, the outbreak often already been in the news since potential outbreaks are first investigated by local and state health departments.

How do these smaller agencies decide how and when to publicize details about a suspected or confirmed outbreak? Continue reading

Study: Newspaper coverage rarely reflects medical evidence over time

Photo: Binuri Ranasinghe via Flickr

Journalists are in love with reporting new findings about a disease and a particular risk factor, but they are not so keen on following what happens later and reporting on whether the finding was replicated – and just over half the time is later disproved.

This comes from a recent study in PLOS ONE by authors who previously found that journalists tend to favor initial findings over subsequent findings on the same outcome. Continue reading

P-hacking, self-plagiarism concerns plague news-friendly nutrition lab

Photo: Dominic Rooney via Flickr

Some of the most difficult research to make sense of comes from nutrition science. It is difficult, expensive and labor-intensive to conduct randomized controlled trials in nutrition, in part because they require randomizing what people eat and then ensuring they eat what they’re supposed to – no more and no less.

Even when such trials are finished (often at in-patient labs), the populations are usually small and somewhat homogenous, thus reducing the generalizability and overall clinical utility of results. Continue reading

Tip sheet series to focus on red flags to look for in medical studies

With thousands of medical studies published every day, it’s impossible to cover even 1 percent of them. When you can only choose a tiny fraction of studies to cover — particularly if you freelance or your editor gives you some autonomy and flexibility in this area — how do you decide whether or not to cover a study?

Reasons can vary: Some people focus on the better known “more prestigious” journals, although that approach has its drawbacks. Continue reading