At some point almost all health care journalists will need to cover a medical study or two. When that happens, you’ll want to have at least a passing understanding of p values and statistics and you’ll need to know that correlation does not imply causation.
For a session on May 2, AHCJ’s medical studies topic leader Tara Haelle moderated a panel, “Begin mastering medical studies.” Haelle and two experts in the topic explained some of the finer points of covering studies: Ishani Ganguli, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School, and an internal medicine physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital; and Regina Nuzzo, Ph.D., a freelance journalist and professor of science, technology and mathematics at Gallaudet University. Continue reading
I’m frequently asked on social media for my thoughts on a particular study. In this situation, I thought the quick analysis I did may be instructive for others, so I’ve Storified it here, along with additional commentary and resources. Continue reading
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
An utterly fantastic long read by Christie Aschwanden at FiveThirtyEight.com, cuts to the chase very early: “Science is hard – really f***ing hard.”
Aschwanden’s piece – which ought to be required reading for every health journalist (and probably every news consumer, too) – aims to convey just how challenging it is to get reliable findings through scientific research and all the ways that science, despite our best efforts, is ultimately a human enterprise subject to human failings.
“If we’re going to rely on science as a means for reaching the truth – and it’s still the best tool we have – it’s important that we understand and respect just how difficult it is to get a rigorous result,” she writes. And of course, this reality is part of what makes responsible and thorough reporting on medical research such a challenge at times. Continue reading