PR specialist: Health journalists have critical role

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Health journalists may be surprised to find support from Paul Oestreicher, a marketing communications consultant and adjunct professor at New York University with experience in the pharmaceutical industry.

Oestreicher makes the case that the health care industry has a vested interest in increasing the public’s health and science literacy – something he says will be supported by “news outlets being repopulated with professional journalists to help carry information forward.”

Though the pharmaceutical industry has suffered from behavioral, communication and performance missteps that have lowered reputation, it is low health literacy among consumers and the decline of science journalism that are fundamental to this problem.

Oestreicher cites numbers that show the pharmaceutical industry is suffering from a poor reputation that will only be helped by the public’s ability to evaluate medical facts and evidence. He also cites articles and a survey done by AHCJ and the Kaiser Family Foundation about the critical need for journalists who understand scientific studies and statistics.

Professional health and science journalists must help to communicate the progress and the failures, and to differentiate the facts and evidence from the frauds and junk science. Unfortunately, we’ve seen surveys confirm what we already know about the state of health and science journalism over the past few months. It’s a shrinking, wounded profession. We know the symptoms – they’ve been well documented. Like the global economy, journalism needs a recovery plan.

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