Local Television Health Care Coverage Lacks Context
Local television news coverage of health care issues often lacks adequate context and in some cases is inaccurate, according to a study published in the current issue of the American Journal of Managed Care, USA Today reports (Markovitz, USA Today, 3/13).
For the study, researchers from the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin-Madison reviewed 2,795 news broadcasts in 50 metropolitan areas from October 2002. The study finds that 40% of the broadcasts included at least one health care story, with a median airtime of 33 seconds for those stories.
According to the study, among the 1,799 health care stories aired during the broadcasts, 26% included recommendations on how to prevent or treat a medical condition, and 12% discussed the prevalence of a condition, which is important in risk assessment.
The study also finds that about 2% of the health care stories were inaccurate, James Pribble, an emergency physician at the University of Michigan Hospital and lead author of the study, said (Chong, Los Angeles Times, 3/13).
"With low health-literacy levels in the country, somebody is going to take that information and possibly be harmed by it," Pribble said.
Maria Simbra, a physician and a health care reporter in Pittsburgh, said "Time limits, 75 seconds, can hinder how much you're able to explain," adding, "Sometimes adding context lessens the hype, which disappoints" managers and promotions staff (USA Today, 3/13).
The study is available online.