Category Archives: Covering medical studies

Protect readers’ time and bandwidth from unpublished trials

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.

Photo: Thomas Leuthard via Flickr

Every week for years, I’ve received press releases about studies starting up. This one looking at heart disease, that one about a common cancer, and still another on a rare childhood disease. I’ve written about precisely zero of them. When the public relations person follows up, I’ll explain: “I write primarily about peer-reviewed research. Let me know when it’s published.”

If you write for business, pharma or medical trade publications, there may be times when you write about the initiation of a study. Even then, it’s typically more important to wait until the study is actually underway and there’s something to say about it. And for consumer publications, I can’t think of any reason to talk about an upcoming individual study that hasn’t begun. Continue reading

Survey findings on mental health during COVID-19 potentially helpful in reporting

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.

Photo: Nenad Stojkovic via Flickr

I’ve written already about the mental health toll the COVID-19 pandemic and associated management strategies, such as physical distancing, are having and will have on the population. Then I received a press release from the health information site Healthline that put some numbers to that toll, both from their internal data and from a nationwide survey from the public opinion company YouGov.

Healthline in May launched a special section on mental health during the pandemic that’s full of quick service pieces on managing anxiety, stress, depression, panic attacks and similar experiences during the pandemic. Some of these stories can provide ideas for similar pieces for your publication, or be jumping off places for deeper dives into the medical research on mental health during major crises. Continue reading

Book on cognitive biases and logical fallacies particularly relevant during pandemic

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.

I’m pretty sure Jonathan Howard, M.D., is not psychic — but I’m not 100% sure. After all, almost nothing in science can be stated with 100% certainty. But I could be forgiven for suspecting he had some sort of premonition about the pandemic and the massive challenges it would present to clinicians, researchers, journalists and the public at large, because of the book he published less than two years ago: “Cognitive Errors and Diagnostic Mistakes: A Case-Based Guide to Critical Thinking in Medicine.” (Before you read any further, be aware that I have disclosures related to Howard that will become evident shortly.)

Howard, a psychiatrist at NYU Langone Health, spends a good deal of his free time fighting misinformation and pseudoscience online, especially on Twitter and Facebook. Continue reading

Ferrets and monkeys and mice, oh my! What’s the best coronavirus animal model?

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.

Photo: zoofanatic via Flickr

Mice and rats are the most common lab mammals for scientific research, But depending on the question being asked, and if relevant, the intervention being tested, they are not necessarily always the most appropriate animal to use.

When it comes to studying interventions for human diseases, scientists in translational research must usually find animal models in whom the disease acts as similarly as possible to the way it does in humans. For example, when FDA researcher Tod Merkel conducted a study to test the effectiveness of the acellular pertussis vaccine in preventing infection, he used baboons because the disease process of pertussis is similar in baboons as it is in humans. The research cannot be perfectly translated, but it can come close enough to explain trends that researchers had identified in epidemiological data. Continue reading

Study focuses on the popularity of pandemic themes in Hollywood cinema

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.

A movie poster from “Contagion” in 2011.

A movie poster from “Contagion” in 2011.

There’s no shortage of medical studies examining every possible aspect of the coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic that one could imagine, and the data will never be enough to meet the insatiable thirst for more information among scientists and the public alike. But it helps when journalists can break up the intensity of their COVID-19 coverage while still tapping into the zeitgeist.

A new study in JAMA offers the perfect opportunity: How has Hollywood treated pandemics throughout the history of film? Continue reading

Getting the most from webinars on COVID-19 and the coronavirus

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.

Audio signatureBetween social distancing guidelines and the fact that a global pandemic truly does impact the entire world, webinars and online press briefings about COVID-19 and the SARS-CoV2 coronavirus are plentiful.

Many are incredibly helpful for veteran health/science reporters who are familiar with infectious disease reporting and for the many reporters who may not previously have reported on infectious disease or medical research and to bone up quickly. Continue reading