Tag Archives: study

Assessing a journal’s quality can help assess a study’s newsworthiness

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: usabiomedlib via Flickr

Photo: usabiomedlib via Flickr

Perhaps you stumble onto an intriguing study that you haven’t seen covered and want to report on it. Or you receive a press release touting provocative findings that sound pretty astonishing … if they’re true. One potential indication of the paper’s significance and quality is the journal in which it was published.

Publication in a highly regarded journal is not a guarantee in itself that the paper is good – the blog Retraction Watch has hundreds of examples of that. In fact, one of the most famously retracted studies of all time – that of Andrew Wakefield’s attempt to link autism and vaccines in a small cases series – was published in The Lancet, one of the top medical journals in the U.K. (Ironically, that study continues to contribute to The Lancet’s impact factor because it’s the second-most-cited retracted paper as ranked by Retraction Watch.) Continue reading

Dentists warn of risk in cleaning pacifiers with saliva

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Dental folks collectively caught their breath when they heard about the study, just published in the journal Pediatrics.

The findings: Children whose parents “cleaned” dropped pacifers by sucking on them were less likely to have asthma or eczema at 18 months than children whose parents did not use this particular method.

In a May 6 story for National Public Radio, reporter Rob Stein explained the findings. He started out by talking with a typical mom who described washing her child’s pacifier when he dropped it, even cleaning it in boiling water if it fell “somewhere particularly gross.”

But, then Stein went on to say “there’s a theory that says: That may not be the best way to go. That sterilizing that pacifier may actually have a big downside. To try to find out, Bill Hesselmar, of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, and his colleagues, studied 184 babies who used pacifiers and their parents. Continue reading

Go beyond aging study data to ask ‘why?’

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News, the Connecticut Health I-Team and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

Outside, there is still a chill in the air and I have recent memories of several inches of snow on the ground. Inside, I’m reading about sweltering summer heat and its effect on respiratory hospitalizations.

Specifically, the largest epidemiological study of its kind – 12.5 million Medicare beneficiaries in 213 U.S. urban counties with at least 30 percent of their population 65 or older. “Heat-related emergency hospitalizations for respiratory diseases in the Medicare population” (Anderson, et. al) was published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health investigated the connection between heat and emergency respiratory hospitalizations, which was less clear than that heat-related mortality in the elderly. Continue reading

Lessons from a soda study that lost its fizz

Brenda Goodman

About Brenda Goodman

Brenda Goodman (@GoodmanBrenda), an Atlanta-based freelancer, is AHCJ’s topic leader on medical studies, curating related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on medical study resources and tip sheets at brenda@healthjournalism.org.

Last October, Brigham and Women’s Hospital took the unusual step of recalling a press release about a research study.

Just hours before the study’s embargo lifted, Brigham’s press officers asked the researchers to stop giving interviews, and barely half an hour before the story went live, they alerted the press that the study’s data was “weak.”

People involved in the decision say it’s the first time the Harvard-affiliated hospital had ever publicly pulled its support for a study.

Of course, Brigham’s disavowal of the research became the headline instead:

Since Brigham’s decision not to promote the study, I reached out to the hospital’s media team, the study authors, and the editor of the journal that published the study to get their perspectives. They agreed to help me because they want health reporters to understand the pitfalls of promoting science, and how that effort can sometimes veer too far from a study’s actual findings. Continue reading

Health policy news is just 1 percent of all news

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.

A study from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism found that news about health and health care made up 3.6 percent of all news content from January 2007 through June 2008.

It found that 42 percent of stories were about specific diseases or conditions, with cancer receiving the most attention (10 percent of all health coverage).

Thirty-one percent of health news focused on public health issues, including potential epidemics and contamination of food and drugs.

The smallest category of stories focused on health policy or the health care system (27 percent) of all health news, or less than one percent of all news content. This category includes stories on topics such as Medicare and Medicaid, the uninsured, health care costs, and proposals for reform of the health care system.

For the study, 3,513 health stories were analyzed from 48 news outlets, including newspapers of all sizes, network newscasts, cable programmingand online news sites.