How to Interpret Health Topics in the News

What’s in the news?

Media today seems to be obsessed with reporting health related topics as rapidly as possible. As a reader, it is easy to become confused with what to believe and how to interpret the abundance of information that is being published.

What you may be reading:

Many health reports are sensational observational reports. This means that a researcher has found a database, put in a few parameters, and pushed “enter” to obtain his or her results. For example: In the UK a database was reviewed and a conclusion drawn that linked certain antidepressants to teen suicide. The report was published and rapidly circulated across the globe. A year later, Federal Health Agencies advised all Doctors in Canada to only prescribe the antidepressant Prozac to teens. The result was that the rate of teen suicide increased. This research report was faulted. the researcher only used the database and failed to explore other variables such as other medications, proper diagnosis, medication dosage, etc.

Observational studies are published abundantly because they seem sensational. News media will publish sensational stories simply because they are what generate reader interest and sell the newspapers you and I read.

Know what to believe:

  • If you are unsure about the information that is presented in the news, a good way to be sure is to do background research on the topic.
  • Find a reliable source that has come to the same conclusion as the story you have read and ask a physician or healthcare professional.
  • Stay informed but be cautious in doing so.

Dr. House is the Corporate Medical Officer of Copeman Healthcare Centre. He has distinguished himself in general family practice in the Vancouver area since 1970. Dr. House has developed special interest and expertise in cardio- vascular disease, asthma, depression and anxiety disorders.