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.

How susceptibility to placebo effect could change research

Photo: Matt Allworth via Flickr

Photo: Matt Allworth via Flickr

The placebo effect presents quite the conundrum to researchers attempting to discern whether a particular intervention truly offers clinical benefit for patients. Those most susceptible to the effect can feel so much better after a placebo that their “improvement” exceeds that of others taking a chemically active drug.

This problem may slow down the pipeline for new effective drugs, Erik Vance suggests in his recent Washington Post article, “People susceptible to the placebo effect may be keeping us from getting new drugs.” Continue reading

Award-winning series can help you better understand medical studies

 Photo: Dale Gillard via Flickr

Photo: Dale Gillard via Flickr

Winners of the 2016 AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Awards included science journalist Christie Aschwanden of FiveThirtyEight, who received the Silver Award in the online category for a three-part series that every health journalist would do well to read, reread and bookmark.

We previously praised how well she described p-hacking, study biases and other important concepts in understanding research for the first story, “Science Isn’t Broken.” Her second piece, “You Can’t Trust What You Read About Nutrition,” was mentioned in a John Oliver show that we also featured. It used the absurdity of a link found in one study between eating cabbage and having an innie belly button to illustrate potential problems in observational studies about nutrition. Continue reading

Flesh out your coverage of infectious diseases with historical data

Photo: Wellcome Images via Flickr

Photo: Wellcome Images via Flickr

Any time there is an outbreak of an infectious disease, the public wants to know how common it is and its risk of contracting it. When covering breaking cases, journalists should provide context by including information on historical incidence and trends.

Here are some resources for infectious diseases exclusively within the United States. Continue reading

False positives matter: A real-life case study in understanding context

Photo: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Photo: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Something happened in our family early in August that set me behind in my work for more than three months. What we experienced holds an important lesson for health journalists.

It is something seemingly small and simple, but with significant potential consequences. However, I need to provide a bit of context in my story to illustrate a phenomenon journalists need to keep in mind when reporting on screening and diagnostic tests. Continue reading

Breaking up with EurekAlert!: Where to find other studies

Photo: Tim Malabuyo via Flickr

Photo: Tim Malabuyo via Flickr

In a previous blog post about EurekAlert!, I described some advantages to using the service less often than many reporters new to the health beat often do. But that post didn’t address how you can start leaving those EurekAlert! email updates unopened in your inbox.

Here are several tips to help you become less dependent on EurekAlert!. Tip: These alternatives can result in adding email alerts to your inbox each day, so it may be worth setting up a dedicated email address for all the lists you’re on. Continue reading