Health News Blues
By Susan Yara, 07.27.06.
Before you panic after hearing about the latest health epidemic on the local news, consider getting an expert opinion. In this fastmoving nformation world, where just about anything can be found with a simple click of a mouse or by flipping through cable channels, it’s hard to know whom to trust, especially when it comes to health and medical issues. That is why doctors advise the public to be skeptical about news of a health “epidemic” or “crisis,” especially when it comes from the local television news.
“It’s not that the information on the news isn’t accurate,” says Dr. David B. Baron, a family physician and chief of staff at the Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center in Malibu, Calif. “But the media tend to go for the medical news that’s most exciting or most interesting, and too often most alarming.
” In a survey of local television coverage of medical news, published in the March issue of The American Journal of Managed Care, three doctors examined the content of full-length news broadcasts in the top 50 U.S. media markets and found that of the 2,795 broadcasts they reviewed, 64% featured health stories. In fact, at times health coverage is inaccurate and is squeezed into such short bites of time that it may not provide helpful information. The average amount of airtime for each story was a mere 33 seconds, and the two most common topics were breast cancer and West Nile Virus. The survey concluded that few of the newscasts actually provided useful information, while some of the stories were factually incorrect-worrying considering that local television news broadcasts reach an average of 165 million Americans.
“I think it’s alarming that they fail to talk about prevention or what to do in case,” says Dr. James M. Pribble, lead author on the survey and elector in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Michigan. “For instance, West Nile Virus was a common story, but no one told you what to do to avoid getting bit by mosquitoes.”
Baron opines that reports on the “obesity epidemic” or Avian Flu are valid stories but often don’t include information that will help viewers live healthier lifestyles. “There needs to be information about nutrition, weight management, smoking cessation, exercise, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, and preventing and screening cancer and heart disease,” he says.
Luckily, there are plenty of trusted sources for medical news and information that can be just as convenient as the 10 p.m. newscast. Two Web sites to check out are that of the American Academy of Family Physicians at www.familydoctor.org, and WebMD. But he stresses that all medical conditions should be properly assessed by an actual doctor.
“More than anything, I believe that people need to have a good relationship with a primary care physician whom they trust, who takes the time to answer questions, and who cares enough to stay informed,” he says.
No trecho do último parágrafo do texto – ...and who cares enough to stay informed,... – a palavra who refere-se
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