Introduction to Science-Health Communication - Part 2

Uploaded by azphtc on 11.07.2012

>> Welcome to Introduction to Science
and Health Communications, Part 2.
We've looked at what science and health communication is,
why it's important, and who does it.
In Part 2, we'll examine another challenge, and also look
at the process of science
and health communication: How does it happen?
For the non-scientist or non-health-professional,
health and science information disseminated through the media
and the Internet can often be confusing and contradictory.
Let's take a look at an example.
On January 1st, 1998, the <i> New England Journal</i>
<i> of Medicine </i> published a study about the impact
of weight on lifespan.
Many newspapers across the United States published stories
based on this study.
<i> The New York Times </i> ran the story with this lead:
The largest study ever conducted on health risks
of obesity has found that it increases the likelihood
of premature death, but not as much
as many medical experts had expected.
On the same day, a small-town paper ran the story off the
Associated Press wire, with this lead:
Is keeping down your weight a New Year's resolution?
Here's some incentive from the world of medicine.
One of the biggest studies ever to look at the effect of weight
on longevity concludes that thinner is definitely better
at almost all ages, including well into middle age and beyond.
Looking at these two leads side-by-side,
there's clearly a different approach
to the story in each newspaper.
It could be said that one presents the information
in a positive light -- attempting to engage readers,
while the other takes a more factual approach,
simply presenting the study findings,
without dressing up the delivery.
These types of variances in communicating science
or health information is another important challenge
to be aware of, when producing communication pieces,
but also as a consumer of mass information put out by media.
So how does it happen?
How does science or health news get
from the scientists to the public?
The starting place for most science
and health news is the academic journal.
Journals like <i> Science </i> and<i> Nature </i> publish articles
that eventually lead to stories in mainstream media.
For example, a scientist does a comprehensive study
of populations and discovers
that obesity causes an increased likelihood of premature death.
He writes an article about his study
and submits it to a journal.
His article is reviewed by peers in his field,
to ensure the validity of the study.
If the article is approved by the scientist's peers
and the journal, it gets published in the journal.
Journalists use these peer-reviewed health
and science journals as a source for their stories.
Where else does it come from?
Press releases.
A scientist does a study.
They or their organization write a press release about it
and send that release out to the media.
Press releases come from all kinds of science
and health organizations, including research,
educational, private, and public.
The media then either use the press release as is, with little
or no change, or they write a story based
on that press release.
What this means for science and health news is
that science journalists are being cut out of the picture,
and often that is a specialized journalist
who produces quality stories that are accurate
and engaging to the public.
There is a debate in the field of science communicators
and journalism about what effect this will have on the quality
of science and health news.
With the evolution of the Internet, another source
for science news has quickly gained ground:
Scientists' personal blogs.
In 2004, 18% of journalists got their story ideas
from scientists' personal blogs.
In 2009, 63% of journalists got their story ideas
from scientists' blogs.
That's a significant increase.
If you are a scientist or health professional yourself,
or even just an individual with a knack for writing
and a passion about your field,
blogging has become a very effective way
to join the ongoing public discourse
in that virtual world we call the Internet.
This is the end of Part 2.
In Part 3, we'll tackle the big topic
of how you can practice effective science
and health communication.