Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sensational health news headlines tick me off

I wanted to use a word much stronger than tick but I resisted.

We all know that studies can often be adjusted to suit certain purposes and news stories. We also know that not all journalists, reporters, and bloggers know anything about medicine or health, but they write on it anyway. That's not the problem though because many of them can research properly and learn as they go along. But, unless you know how to read a study, it's easy to make mistakes in interpreting them. I do know how to read studies and I still err that way from time to time. Of course, then there's the publications that are there just for the readers and numbers, rather than providing actual facts, rather than insinuated ones.

So, what happens? We get sensationalist headlines that freak people out but make for great reading. The latest one though, has be fuming because it is a very important topic: blood donation. I read this morning "Teen donors plagued by complications". But, when I clicked on the link, the story only said how many teens were donating and how many had "complications" according to their age group. That was it. No story on what those supposed complications are.

It doesn't take much digging to find out that the supposed complications are fainting and bruising. Falls from fainting and injuries from the fainting are included in the "complications" of blood donation. So, for this, we deserve news headlines of complications plaguing teens if they donate blood? Give me a flipping break.

In my opinion, those complications of fainting are probably easily solved. Teens think they're invincible. They'll go out and run a few miles, if that's their habit, even after giving blood and being told they shouldn't. I know when I was 18, I was told, no exercise after giving and what did I do not 10 minutes later? I ran up five flights of stairs to my class. Not a smart move. But that particular faint had nothing to do with giving blood, it had to do with my own stupidity.

Ok, maybe teens do faint more and bleed more - I'm not going to deny that, but geez, do we really need such fear mongering? Don't we have enough?

Now - on a more serious note. If you have a chronic illness or look after someone who does, you may be interested in a document a friend of mine has drawn up that can keep track of your latest health care, including medications, doctor's visits and so on: Here’s help to keep your medical records straight

Today on Help My Hurt:

Friday funnies - May 23
Fracture hip risk calculator for seniors
Here’s help to keep your medical records straight
Chronic pain fact
Energy saving isn’t just for power, it’s for health too
Out in the sun a bit too long?

News for Today:

Home blood pressure monitor can be great monitoring tool, group says
Sports-related knee injuries more severe in girls than boys: study
Diet, exercise reduce diabetes risk over long term
Antidepressants not linked to birth defects: study
Coffee before cereal boosts blood sugar: study
Virtual biopsy can tell whether colon polyp is benign without removal, researchers say


Joanne Mason said...

I ran into something similar recently. There was a Dr. Phil show about MRSA and how it is a horrible epidemic. Then I went to a lecture on infectious disease led by a physician at a local teaching hospital and he said that yes, MRSA is serious, but is not the emergency that is portrayed in the media. So it's interesting to see that imbalance, one that all consumers of health information in the mainstream media should keep in mind.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

I agree. Quite often I see a tease for the nightly news and it implies impending doom, and then it's just plain silly.

I get my best medical news right here on Marijke: nurse turned writer.

Marijke, I am immensely grateful for your hard work in pulling this info together as well as your work on Help My Hurt.


Marijke Durning said...

Yes Joanne, that's exactly it. We're not saying that MRSA isn't a problem, we're saying "hey, it's not an epidemic, calm down."

Terrie, thanks so much for those kind words. You made my day!

Crabby McSlacker said...

You get the same kind of ridiculous exaggeration when the news is good, too. Blueberries cure cancer! Or whatever.

The sad thing, is those headlines often work--I find I'm more likely to check out a sensational headline and then just get mad when it's not true.

Onehealthpro said...

Another example of media's willingness to abandon ethics in pursuit of dollars.