The Newcastle Institute of Public Health (NIPH) has launched a web site dedicated to improving the accuracy of news stories about new medical treatments in the media.
Professor David Henry from NIPH says the Media Doctor web site reviews current news items about medical treatments and publishes critiques of the stories.
"It is genuinely difficult for journalists to write accurate balanced stories about new drugs, as most of the information is held by pharmaceutical manufacturers who have a clear vested interest in ensuring their product is reported in the most positive way. We want to support journalists who are attempting to write balanced informative stories," says Professor Henry.
"The aim of Media Doctor is to ensure that, when possible, all important information associated with new treatments is reported accurately, including benefits, harms, costs, adverse effects and any conflicts of interest that may affect the accuracy of information provided by expert sources."
"The media plays a crucial role in communicating health messages and notifying the public about research findings and new treatments."
"People often base their opinions on what they have read or heard in the media, and subsequently, news articles are presented to doctors and become the basis of discussions about treatment decisions."
"Doctors themselves may hear first about developments through the media. We hope that in future Media Doctor will provide assistance to GPs when patients approach them with news articles about new treatments," says Professor Henry.
The Newcastle Institute of Public Health is the public health research arm of HMRI.
Visit the website at http://www.mediadoctor.org.au