One Step Forward, One Step Back: Changes in News Coverage of Medical Interventions

Kim Walsh-Childers, Jennifer Braddock, Cristina Rabaza, Gary Schwitzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


During 2005–2013, the award-winning website offered reviews of major media outlets’ news stories related to health interventions, including tests, treatments, dietary changes, and prescription drugs. The reviews offered a measure by which the public and journalists themselves could assess the completeness and usefulness of health coverage across 10 criteria for quality reporting. This study produced an analysis of those reviews from 2005 to 2013, indicating significant changes in key areas. Analysis of 1,889 health news story reviews published by (HNR) between 2005 and 2013 showed that, on average, the stories reviewed during 2005–2010 successfully met just less than half of the criteria, but by 2010–2013, that average had improved to almost 70%. There were significant improvements over time in news organizations’ success in meeting six of HNR’s 10 criteria for a successful health news story related to drugs, devices, surgery and other medical procedures, and diet; however, when data for television stories were excluded, only the improvement in avoiding disease-mongering remained significant. In addition, there was a statistically significant decline in the percentage of stories rated satisfactory on establishing the true novelty of the intervention discussed in the story. There was no improvement in quantification of possible harms from medical interventions. Changes over time in meeting the criteria were related to outlet type and story topic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)174-187
Number of pages14
JournalHealth communication
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018

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© 2016 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


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