Need Health Information – Newspaper is the Last Place to look

I saw a recent headline in the newspaper suggesting the flu shot caused a rare neurological syndrome in a patient. The headline said “Flu Shot Hell” and there was a miserable picture of a woman with an eye patch on.

Probably the worst place to look for health science info
Probably the worst place to look for health science info

The headline and the picture would have you believe that she assuredly got this problem from the flu shot. But as you read through the article you will notice that it’s based on conjecture and anecdotes and no facts from the medical community.

In short, they present the sensational argument form the ‘victims’ side without presenting the facts about the situation.

A quick browse of the web and a skip over to wikipedia can give you a good start at realizing that the condition this woman has is highly treatable, has never been definitively shown to be caused by flu vaccine, and has a regular occurance rate in the population that seems to be unaffected by vaccines.

So once you get a bit more of a balanced story you start to see that the newspaper is a highly biased one sided argument that is designed around sensationalism, fear mongering and tugging at your emotional heart strings with seemingly no regard for accuracy of facts.

I can tell you that the newspapers have got every story dead wrong that I was ever involved in. Likewise many of my colleagues from academia have had similar experiences. In fact in many cases the story they portrayed was the complete opposite of what truly happened.

When it comes to health, diet and fitness I would never use the newspaper as a resource, it’s simply not a credible source. And we don’t have to because we’ve got the interweb.

Instead of referring to a middle man (journalist or columnist) you can now use the internet to go straight to the source. Health care professionals including physicians of all kinds, surgeons, nurses, dieticians, fitness coaches and trainers, and top researchers in all fields have free blogs and podcasts that can inform you far better than any journalist can.

As a general rule, when it comes to matters of scientific facts about health, I would view the newspaper only as a resource to see what misinformation and spin the rest of the population is being fed, but never use it as an actual credible source of any information. Incidentally this is also why the newspaper industry is dying a rapid and miserable death, and will be all but extinct within the next 5 years. (yes that is my bold prediction)

John