Tip #1 for becoming an empowered health consumer: Ask tough questions when it comes to the web and on-air health reports

Don’t believe everything you read or hear without questioning it. Listen to a health report with ears wide open and don’t be afraid to question it. When searching for health information on the web, check out sites such as cdc.gov, fda.gov, clevelandclinic.org, and mayoclinic.org, but don’t stop there. There are some other great sites that are not so well known, and offer exceptional information.

“Always read an article with a critical eye. Does what the author say make sense? Check the facts and get the facts from more than one source”, says Kevin Soden, MD, medical journalist and author.

If news shows aren’t asking the tough questions; go ahead and ask your own questions. Ask questions when you’re searching for health information on the web or listening to a health report.

When health consumers surf the web for health information, Matthew Holt, founder of The Healthcare Blog says, health consumers should, “Check multiple sources. Ask questions in consumer forums and look for multiple answers.”

Gary Schwitzer, Associate Professor, University of Minnesota School of Journalism & Mass Communication and is the Publisher of HealthNewsReview’s mission is to review health news coverage every day to make sure news stories are accurate.

There is plethora of health information circulating the web, and network news broadcast serious health information in only a couple of minutes or less. Since some news health segments may only be a few minutes long, viewers may not be getting all the information they need.

Here’s an example where critical information is missing.

In a recent blog by Gary Schwitzer, “CBS Early Show should read us the health news right out of the paper”, Schwitzer questions the validity of this health report.

“Did it come from a study? Or straight out of the Wall Street Journal? Last week the CBS early show brought on another physician-correspondent to talk about the benefits of coffee drinking. Anchor Harry Smith referred to “this new study.” What new study? None was referenced.

Take a look. What do you think when you hear a report that refers to a “new study?” Perhaps at the end of this segment “New Research on Java’s Health Perks” Harry Smith or Dr. Alanna Levine (Primary Care Physician) perhaps could have said, “For more detailed information on this topic, visit our website…” Unfortunately, there isn’t any detailed information on CBS’s website.

To be an empowered health consumer you need to question what you read and hear. It’s important to know the source. Find out what study the story is based upon and who funded the study.

Do you have any examples of times you’ve found a story to have a different impact once you knew what study the story was base upon or who funded it? I’d love to hear!

Published on: January 12, 2010
About the Author
Photo of Barbara Ficarra RN BSN MPA

Barbara is an award-winning journalist, media broadcaster, media trainer, medical blogger, speaker, and health expert. She is creator, executive producer and host of the Health in 30 radio show, a live 30-minute program that brings listeners the latest health and medical news and information with leading medical experts, and empowers listeners to take charge of their health.

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