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.

Should we beware the tyranny of the randomized controlled trial?

Photo: Herald Post via Flickr

Photo: Herald Post via Flickr

The intersection of scientific research, evidence and expertise can be a dicey one, particularly in an age in which evidence-based medicine is replacing the clinical expertise of practitioners.

In The New York Times Sunday Review, Jamie Holmes wrote about how the challenge of assessing the quality of evidence against expertise and less stringently conducted research can lead readers to confusion and frustration. Continue reading

Medical research coverage often contains too few independent, conflict-free comments

Photo: Global Panorama via Flickr

Photo: Global Panorama via Flickr

Just one in every six new stories about medical research contained independent comments from someone besides the study authors — and a quarter of them did not have the relevant clinical or academic expertise to be commenting on the research. Further, just over half of those commenters had relevant conflicts of interest, but only half were reported in the news article. Those are the findings of a sobering, though unsurprising, new study that reveals just how much news consumers suffer from a dearth of high-quality reporting on medical research.

In plainer terms, health journalists need to be doing a better job when reporting on medical research. Continue reading

Writing about abortion? AHCJ has the data you need

Issues surrounding abortion never really leave the news. A reporter could build an entire beat around covering abortion issues and never be without a story from one day to the next.

That said, recently passed or proposed legislation around the country have thrust abortion to the top of the news once again, mainly because their restrictions push against what has been found to be constitutional by the Supreme Court. Continue reading

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